EBJ PRESENTS…Would You Rather: The Eurovision Edition!

Greetings, fellow lovers of flags and key changes (providing there aren’t twenty of them in one song). Now that national final season is O-V-E-R over, we’ve arrived at that unsettlingly quiet period during which our forty Eurovision 2015 acts are barricaded in rehearsal rooms, not permitted to emerge again until they have to catch their flights to Vienna. Or, in The Makemakes’ case, until it’s time to stroll over to the Wiener Stadthalle for run-through numero uno.

Re-ranking and prediction-making aside, there aren’t a whole lot of ESC activities we can undertake at the moment, and it’s rather depressing. But fear not, because Jaz is here to save the day – if what will save the day is a (hopefully) entertaining, interactive ball of Eurovision fluff!

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the concept of Would You Rather, i.e. where you’re presented with two equally exciting or horrifying options/scenarios, and you have to sweat it out and choose which one you’d…well, rather. It’s pretty self-explanatory.

What Would You Rather is not – for the most part, in my experience – is Eurovision-themed, and I personally think that is wrong on an abundance of levels. So, with the intention of altering that shocking reality, I have come up with fifteen WYR questions on our favourite subject: the greatest show on Earth, besides Big Fat Gypsy Weddings.

You know what I’m talking about.

Some of these questions will be easy for you to answer; others may bring on an existential crisis. Either way, you’ll be able to see whether you’re in the majority or minority with your ‘rathers’, and you’ll probably be making some of these faces:

wyrf

So, pull yourself out of that post-NF season funk and get your game on! The Eurovision decisions are waiting to be made. This is really serious stuff, guys.

 
PS – I’ve justified my own choices under each WYR, so if you don’t want me to influence you, check those out after you’ve voted.

 

WHAT I’D RATHER: This is a tough one, but as I can only sing in the shower, or if someone’s drowning me out with a vuvuzela version of Waterloo, I’d have to go with the hosting duties. Grinning like Gianluca Bezzina on happy pills and saying ‘Europe, stop voting NOW!’, I can do.

 

Ell_and_Nikki_s_Fire_CurtainAnggun_s_Wind_Machine

WHAT I’D RATHER: Wind machine, every time. Nothing makes one feel quite so glamorous as having their mane of hair blown into their lip gloss.

 

WHAT I’D RATHER: If you need to be reminded of how hard it would be to fall asleep to either of these voices, check out Remedios here and Dustin here. I vote Dustin as the lesser of two evils. He has an Irish accent, and that’s never a (completely) bad thing.

 

WHAT I’D RATHER: Back to the future, baby! I’d be very curious to find out if Eurovision will eventually be hosted by C3PO and R2D2, and/or if Ralph Siegel has FINALLY realised his music is past its prime and stopped entering. Fingers crossed.

 

wyr2

WHAT I’D RATHER: I would feel so awkward being in a stadium by myself (bar the cameramen and floor crew, etc) I’d end up leaving before the hosts even finished saying ‘Good evening Europe!’. I’ll take the tiny stage, thanks.

 

WHAT I’D RATHER: Never hearing Lane Moje again isn’t an option, as far as I’m concerned.

 

WHAT I’D RATHER: Thinking along the lines of quality, not quantity, I’d go with one minute.

 

wyr3

WHAT I’D RATHER: The ballads…but by a margin smaller than San Marino’s chances of winning in Vienna.

 

WHAT I’D RATHER: Cher did it, Kanye West did it, Wil.i.am’s entire vocal range is due to it – ‘it’ being use of the good old vocoder. It is amusing to listen to (although I might not think so after 180 seconds of nothing but).

 

WHAT I’D RATHER: Seeing as my favourite, or one of, has finished last in the final on more than one occasion (Denmark 2002, Finland 2009, Norway 2012…I could go on) I’m accustomed to it. If that didn’t go hand in hand with my most despised entry taking out the contest, I could easily deal with the pain again.

 

WHAT I’D RATHER: Can I have both? No? I suppose that does defeat the purpose of this game. In that case, I’ll be Ursula to Pastora’s Ariel and take her voice for my own use. Gracias.

 

wyr4

WHAT I’D RATHER: Well, everyone finds farts funny, whereas I’m not sure the hosts or the millions of viewers watching on would appreciate the incompetence of two consecutive stuff-ups. Both scenarios are embarrassing, but I could laugh off the flatulence…or at least blame it on someone else.

 

WHAT I’D RATHER: Epic Sax Guy would be great for life’s highs (birthday parties, etc) and for getting me up and out of bed in the morning. But I’m not sure the sound of sax would suit when my grandma’s just died or I’ve found out that Valentina Monetta’s coming back to Eurovision, again.

 

Loreen_s_Crab_DanceKurt_Calleja_s_foot_swivel

WHAT I’D RATHER: I do enjoy that foot swivel, and it’s a less conspicuous dance move to be stuck with.

 

WHAT I’D RATHER: Milan’s bowl haircut would do me zero favours, so I’d take my chances on Rona’s wayward dreadlocks and unique taste in wearable materials (who says a bin liner and Plexiglas can’t combine to make a swanky evening gown?).

 

 
You’ll either be sorry or relieved to hear that I have no more Would You Rather questions in me today. If you enjoyed this post and would like a Volume II, and if you have any suggestions for ESC-themed dilemmas that could feature in it, let me know below!

Also, feel free to comment which question was the most torturous for you to answer, so I know just how evil I am at this point, and just how evil I should be if WYR Part 2 does materialise in the near future…

 
nsig

 

‘Time’ for a chat: Ten Questions with Uzari & Maimuna from Belarus!

Well, the title of this post pretty much explains itself, doesn’t it. Not that I’m going to let that stop me from elaborating on it in a completely unnecessary fashion. It’s a Jaz trademark, for Stig Rästa’s sake!

So, cue the intro that needn’t be: you’ll all be aware by now that one of the (seemingly) many male/female duets competing in Eurovision 2015 is Uzari & Maimuna of Belarus. Uzari – singer and composer from a musical family, whose ESC representation has been years in the making – and Maimuna – violin prodigy, who played with the Belarusian presidential orchestra and has two solo albums to her name – formed a musical partnership after bonding over the majesty of The Lord of the Rings soundtrack (and, most likely, how badly both of them needed to pee after sitting through 3+ hours of cinema).

The eventual result? ‘Time’, which will carry the hopes of Belarus on its relatively up-tempo shoulders in Vienna. Uzari and Maimuna themselves will be carrying those hopes too, of course.

I recently had the chance to ask the pair how it feels for two soloists, talented in their own rights, to form something of a super-duet; what we can expect from their Eurovision performance (i.e. will there be a giant snake-and-Maimuna-filled hourglass onstage?); and, what their favourite 2015 entry is (you’ll never guess). That’s just to name a few of my probing questions, which would have been more out-of-the-box if I wasn’t such an interview newbie. I guess I’ll have to play that particularly rude round of ‘Would You Rather?’ with another Eurovision star, another time.

ANYWAY, read on to find out what Uzari & Maimuna had to say to EBJ, and let me know what you think of Belarus’ chances in Eurovision 2015 down below!

FYI: I know, I know…there are at least three other Belarusian interviews orbiting Planet Eurovision at the moment. But I figure that just means everyone wants a piece of the pair, and that their lovely PR expert (extra lovely seeing as she’s Australian) is very accommodating! Plus, this interview is still technically exclusive…to this blog. So there.
umi

Good morning/afternoon/evening, guys! I’d like to kick off this interview with a question for Maimuna. As someone who is used to performing as a solo instrumentalist, how do you feel teaming up with a vocalist for an event as big as Eurovision? Do you think you and Uzari might continue your working partnership after the contest?

 
M: I hope so. We’re both so proud of ‘Time’ and how the song works with his vocals and my violin, so you never know what else we could end up doing afterwards.

 
One of your big hits has been ‘Queen of Africa’, which is always on my workout playlist because it’s so high energy and has such a great atmosphere. Is it as enjoyable to play as it is to listen to?

 
M: Thank you so much. I really love playing it as it shows what sounds and notes a violin can produce. Plus it keeps my fingers and my mind very nimble.

 

Uzari, you have tried to represent Belarus at Eurovision a few times in the past (‘Secret’ is one of my favourite national final entries from recent years, in fact!). What do you think made ‘Time’ the song that helped you get there?

 
U: Oh, that’s a tough question. I loved being backing singer for Anastasia [Vinnikova] in 2011 as it gave me the chance to see how the whole event worked and what effort was required; and to enjoy the opportunity. That’s why I entered the Eurofest national finals in 2012 and 2013. In 2014 I was focusing on Nadezdha for Junior Eurovision (with the song ‘Sokol’) but after writing ‘Time’ and working with Maimuna, we both agreed that it seemed ‘right’.

 
Do you think that Eurovision experience as a backup singer prepared you at all for what to expect as a lead artist in Vienna?

 
U: I hope so. Then again, that was four Eurovisions ago and each event has different themes, stars that emerge, and celebrated characters and songs. Maimuma and I met Arash (who came third in 2009 ESC) last week and he said what I think we both already knew: work as hard as you can, but somehow also find moments to simply take it all in and enjoy.

 
What does it mean to you both to be representing Belarus in the 60th Eurovision Song Contest?

 
U: A dream come true. It’s such an honour and the Belarusians have been so enthusiastic and supportive. We want to do our best for them.

 
M: I’m not sure it’s sunk in properly yet – maybe when I’m onstage in Vienna?

 
What do you think is the best part about performing as a duet?

 
U: You are not on your own. A duet becomes a team so that you both have a hand in what is created, performed and shown to the world. Maimuna’s talent just amazes me and she has the personality, intelligence and kindness to back it up.

 
M: I always wanted to work with Uzari and the song he wrote needed my violin: it just worked. We get along really well, we both love our work and are really looking forward to Vienna.

 
Have you listened to any of the other songs competing this year? If so, do you have any favourites?

 
U: Not all of them yet, but that’s only because they’re not all released [as of March 12] – I’m particularly interested in the songs from the first semi-final. Who are we up against? The variety and quality has been very impressive.

 
M: I have checked out the songs that are available. With ballads, retro-jazz and techno, there’s a big selection that has enough to appeal to everyone. I don’t have a favourite, or if I do, it’s ours, of course [jokingly].

 
The official video of ‘Time’ was released recently, and it’s stunning. Can we expect a similar theme to come through in your stage presentation in May, or will you be trying something different?

 
M: We are sworn to secrecy but we do want something stylish and strong. No glitter, unicycles or burlesque dancers for us! [Am I wrong to be a little disappointed about this?]

 
Do you have a particular goal for your result in the contest (qualifying, making the top 10 or going all the way) or do you just want to put on the best show possible and do Belarus proud?

 
U: You answered the question for us, in a way [sorry about that!]. We both want to do our best on stage, represent Belarus and enjoy every single moment of the experience.

 
Finally, do you have anything you’d like to say to your Australian fans (who can actually vote for Belarus this year!) and EBJ’s readers?

 
U: Our Aussie press lady, Kath, told me to say ‘G’day’ to you all and that Guy Sebastian is a really good choice. We hope to meet up with him – and the famous Julia Zemiro – in Vienna.

 
M: We hope that you guys enjoy the Eurovision experience – not just as viewers but also as a participating country who gets to vote!

 
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, guys. I wish you the best of luck in Vienna, all the way from the Land Down Under!

 

 

Whether you’re supporting Belarus or not this year, I hope you enjoyed this interview, because I think I’ve caught the bug now. Watch out, ESC representatives – I’m coming for you with mundane question after mundane question! Or perhaps that aforementioned round of ‘Would You Rather?’…

 
If you are on Team Belarus for 2015, here’s who to get in touch with and where to go for all things Uzari & Maimuna.

 
Contact:
Kath Lockett (Media/PR)
kathlockett@gmail.com

Olga Salamakha (Belarusian/Russian contact)
olgamay15@mail.ru

Connect:
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

 

How do you think Belarus will fare in Eurovision this year? Can Uzari & Maimuna knock TEO’s cheesecake off the cake stand, or will it be ‘Time’ for them to go home after semi final 1?

 

nsig

 

It’s Top 40 Time! My first full ranking of Eurovision 2015

At last, we’re done and dusted, folks. Every Eurovision 2015 entry has been submitted to the powers that be, all ready to be stuck in the CD player in the wings of the Weiner Stadthalle (or however it works. I’m not down with the kids and all their new-fangled technology). I repeat, AT LAST!

Hotly-anticipated reveals from Albania, Azerbaijan, San Marino, Australia (*hollers like a bogan on a boozy Balinese holiday*) and Montenegro earlier in the week rounded off this year’s selection season, with some of us (me) still basking in the glittery aftermath of Saturday’s Scandi finals at the time. That evening saw my favourites in Sweden and Norway take out Melfest and NMGP respectively, making for vigorous victory dancing in my bedroom at six o’clock in the morning.

Now that all of the participants in the 60th ESC are decided, we can all drop whatever we were doing (exams, work projects, giving CPR) and put those all-important Top 40s together. That’s exactly what I’ve done for the purposes of today’s post.

If you’re anything like me, your Top 40 will change about a hundred times between now and May (let’s not even get into how much it will have changed come Eurovision 2016!) and the first one is often the hardest of them all to figure out. Seriously, rankings of this magnitude can make you question your existence and shock you to your very core. Kind of.

That’s why having a helping hand to improve the accuracy of such things is always welcome. I’ve used ESC United’s invaluable song sorter, which is back after being equally priceless in 2014, to generate my first-but-not-final top 40.

Without further ado, I present to you the results, and invite you to share yours in the comments!

 

The top 10

After the weekend of Scandi shenanigans gone by, something drastic has happened to my favourites list. Namely, I have a brand new #1. Gasp! When it comes down to it, though, things are so tight between my top three they’re technically all on top.

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1. Norway – This gave me chills the first time I heard it, and has continued to do so ever since. My body hairs were standing up just watching the voting recaps during MGP. My eyes were a little moist too, but I’m sure that was just dust or something *sniff*.
2. Italy – The only reason I’ve relegated Italy in favour of Norway is because A Monster Like Me triggers a marginally greater physical and emotional reaction in me. Rest assured (I’m talking to you fellow Grande Amore fans here) that I still love Italy like nobody’s business. I am awaiting the ESC edit, hoping no build/drama has been sacrificed in the journey from three minutes forty-something to three minutes even.
3. Sweden – There are not enough positive adjectives on the planet for me to express my appreciation of this entry. I will say, there are a lot of other countries who should be taking notes on how to bring their A-game based on Sweden.
4. Romania – After hearing the (not bad) English version, I thought to myself, ‘If only Voltaj would send a mixed language version to Eurovision.’ I guess they heard me, because they are now sending De La Capăt (All Over Again), which is a smart move. This song might be boring to some, but I absolutely love it. Good riddance to the round pianos and awkward hugs!
5. FYR Macedonia – This entry = one of the best English rewrites I have heard in my time as a Eurovision fan. I suspect the English version was written first, or at least early on, since Daniel sang the chorus of Autumn Leaves in a post-NF win interview. That could be why the English lyrics fit so well. Whatever the explanation, I want to high-five Macedonia big time.
6. Iceland
7. Belgium
8. Moldova
9. Germany
10. Spain

 

My other favourites

The songs in this category round out my top half at the moment. There’s a good chance some of them will make my top 10 eventually, in a year of a) many growers and b) me being as fickle as ever.

2

11. Latvia
12. Estonia – I’m not sure why this has dropped down so far. I’m still a big supporter of Stig and Elina, and I still find Stig oddly attractive (but the less said about that, the better).
13. Georgia – The release of the music video, along with the “new and improved” version (it’s exactly the same to my untrained ear) has rekindled my enjoyment of this Warrior. I haven’t liked a Georgian entry this much since…well, ever. JESC not included.
14. Slovenia
15. Malta
16. Montenegro – I was expecting something with a higher ‘wow’ factor from Knez, considering his song’s composer. Nonetheless, this is a classy Balkan ballad, ethnic to an extent we desperately needed in the Viennese line up.
17. Ireland
18. Israel – I’m unsure about the mish-mash of styles present in Golden Boy – not to mention some of the lyrics – but this is a song that wakes me up and makes me want to join Nadav on the dance floor. This kid’s voice is like honey on very smooth bread, applied with a knife manufactured by angels.
19. Australia – Clearly, I’m not overly-biased. I don’t love Tonight Again to death, but I think we Aussies can be proud of this entry. It’s energetic, very true to Guy’s style, and the kind of song that will be better live than in studio – meaning it should go off in the arena. If you’re skeptical, remember: Australia could easily have sent another ballad. But we did not. We freaking SAVED you, Europe!
20. Switzerland

 

The ones that are keeping me confused!

There’s a sizeable chunk of entries I keep changing my mind about – either that, or I haven’t decided how I feel about them yet.

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21. Azerbaijan – It’s less dreary than Start A Fire, at least. You can never discount Azerbaijan, but their 2014 result was proof that they have to try to succeed, and I’m not certain they’ve tried hard enough here. Elnur’s voice is as amazing as ever, though, and I can see myself liking Hour of the Wolf (cool title alert) a lot more in the future.

22. The Netherlands
23. United Kingdom – If the Class of 2015 was full of peppy, fast-paced pop songs, I’d probably dislike Still In Love With You without thinking twice. But in reality, it’s one of the few songs offering up a fun three minutes, and therefore I’m leaning towards joining the Electro Velvet Brigade, if there is one.

24. Albania
25. Belarus – The music video of Time is fantastic, and taught us all to avoid coming to Maimuna’s rescue. The revamped version of the song itself is less fantastic, but because I love Uzari and his violin-wielding sidekick so much, I can’t bring myself to be too negative about it.
26. Austria
27. Poland – This has already made the leap from ‘meh’ to ‘hmm, I rather like this!’. It is very pretty. But the boob-shaped hole left by Cleo – plus her butter churner and laundry lady – is a big one, and this doesn’t go far in filling it.
28. Denmark
29. Cyprus
30. Russia – We all knew this was the B-side to What If based on the snippet alone. I prefer the melody of that, but this is slightly less cheesy. Polina is stunning, and if she can sing as well outside of the studio as she can in it, I won’t mind sitting through this at all.
31. Hungary
32. Lithuania – This does nothing for me. It’s cute and catchy, but I can’t muster up any enthusiasm for it.
33. Portugal

34. France

 

The receivers of my ‘Oh Dear’ awards…at this point

By the time the contest is over, I’m usually tolerating (at the least) every single song that competed. Apparently I have the magical ability to stop hating something if I listen to it enough. Time will tell if that’s going to apply to the following…

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35. San Marino – As glad as I am to see the back of Valentina Monetta and the front of Anita and Michele, San Marino have set themselves up for a fall giving two talented young singers this bizarre, disjointed and dated cheese-fest. There’s a reason nobody else will let Ralph Siegel write songs for them anymore.
36. Czech Republic – Eurovision 2005 called, and it wants its song back.
37. Greece – Something is seriously wrong when we can’t even count on Greece to get the party started. This is more like a funeral march than a floor filler.
38. Serbia – They’ve never switched to English before, and they never should again. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Bojana’s entry originally, but now that it’s known as Beauty Never Lies, I want to kill it with fire. Not Bojana herself, to clarify…just the song.
39. Armenia – A change of song title hasn’t diminished my disdain for this pompous and bland ballad. It’s like all of these great artists combined somehow cancelled out what should have been a masterpiece.
40. Finland

 
And that’s my Top 40, ladies and gents, albeit a temporary one. Now it’s your turn to get ranking, if you haven’t already (what are you, crazy? NOTHING is more important than this!) and comment your list – or some of it – below. I look forward to totally trashing respectfully agreeing or disagreeing with your opinions.

 
Until next time (in this case, a pretty damn exciting post you won’t want to miss)…

 

nsig

 

MY 400th POST feat. two Scandi finals and a bunch of first impressions!!!

Yes, you read that correctly. I am as shocked as you are to find that I’m still going after five and a half years, and now, FOUR HUNDRED posts. That’s like, a hundred times four (I haven’t done any maths since 2008, so excuse me for being uncertain).

I guess you really can talk about Eurovision endlessly if you have the inclination. Sorry to everyone who thought I’d get bored and shut up before I even reached the big 1-0-0.

With lots of other stuff to chat about today, I’m not going to go on and on about this milestone. I just want to say thanks to anyone who’s read any of my 399 previous ramblings and is about to read this one. You’re (partly) why I keep blogging.

I’ll let a picture (which I hear is worth a thousand words) do the rest of the talking.
ebj4c
Wait…I did also want to warn you that I plan to be celebrating my 800th post in another five-and-a-half-years’ time. Run for cover, people!

Let’s get on with the show/s.

 

First thoughts on the songs of the last seven days

  • Armenia: There’s been big buildup re: Don’t Deny, as week by week Geneaology’s band members were announced and we all wondered how the song would compare to Six4One’s If We All Give A Little. Now we have all six singers, plus one song that makes me go ‘hmm…’. At the moment, the best part of this package for me is having an Arshakyan sister back in Eurovision. Jan jan!
  • Austria: Last night, The Makemakes won themselves the honour of repping Austria on home soil with I Am Yours. It was always going to be difficult for our hosts to follow up Conchita, and sadly – as competent, pleasant and well-sung as this piano ballad is – if it wasn’t an automatic finalist, I think it would be staying behind in the semis. The memorability factor, as with a bunch of 2015 entries, is low.
  • Belgium: The only way was up for Belgium after the creepfest they sent to Copenhagen. Even with that in mind, I am very impressed with Loïc Nottet’s Rhythm Inside. 2015 is shaping up to be a year of ballads VS atypical ESC entries, and this definitely falls into the latter category. It’s catchy and a bit off the wall, and Loïc’s voice – unsurprisingly, given his turn on The Voice Belgique – is great. With vocal backup being provided by a member of Witloof Bay, the live won’t be a disappointment.
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I don’t think the Eurovision camera equipment will respond well to a stage presentation this moist. Then again, Jedward pulled it off…

  • Czech Republic: I guess Hope Never Dies will be the fawned-over song that I can’t get on board with this year. I find it dated and depressing, which means it’ll probably win.
  • Israel: I was dying to hear Golden Boy, knowing that Nadav’s r & b stylings would ensure it wouldn’t be a ballad. It’s not, and it’s the most ethno-pop offering on the table so far. There are some questionable lyrics and a segment that sounds exactly like the pre-chorus of Ed Sheeran’s Sing (shh, don’t tell anyone!) but for the most part, it’s everything I was hoping for. And I STILL cannot believe Nadav’s only sixteen. What has he been eating for breakfast?
  • Poland: Well, the boobs have officially been retired for Eurovision 2015, and it’s kind of a shame. Monika Kuzynska will be using her voice rather than her lady lumps to win us over via In The Name of Love. It’s yet another ballad, and although it is pretty and pleasant to listen to, it will have a tough time standing out.
  • Portugal: Oh look, it’s nice ballad #975! This won’t have a hard time qualifying at all!
  • Romania: Voltaj were my favourites heading into Selecţia Naţională…meaning De La Capăt was the only Romanian song I’d listened to and enjoyed at that point. This has been a big hit in their homeland, and as a fan, I can see (or hear) why. It has the authenticity and character that Paula & Ovi’s Miracle completely lacked.
Voltaj-de-la-capat

‘Look! No stupid round pianos in sight!’

  • United Kingdom: The first time I listened to Still In Love With You, I actually facepalmed. The second time, I found myself tapping my toes. As a result, I’M SO CONFUSED! I’m yet to give it a third spin to see what reaction that brings, but I think I kind of like it. The scat part makes me want to cut my ears off, but I reckon I could come to boogie on down to the rest. BRB, just popping out to hire a flapper outfit and sign up for some Charleston lessons.

Now (I’m back with my fringed mini-dress and dance registration slip, BTW) let’s talk some songs which, for a few more hours, all have the chance of joining the prestigious Eurovision 60 Club – some with better odds than others. That would be the finalists from Norway and Sweden.

 

Cinderella, a monster like me and a well-cooked pizza: God kveld, NMGP!

Whatever else you might have to say on the topic of Norway, you can’t accuse their 2015 national final of lacking in variety, or quality in comparison to 2014.

Melodi Grand Prix has a much more consistent standard to its name this year, with the majority of the eleven entries being more than listenable (which is a compliment). Of course, there are the obligatory musical nightmares that should never have been let out of 1985, but things wouldn’t be quite the same without them. What would we have to complain about if the likes of Elisabeth Andreassen and Tor Endresen hadn’t provided us with 100% vintage cheese?

MGP-2015-All-the-participants

Which of these pretty faces will follow in Carl Espen’s footsteps?

Tor & Bettan will perform third tonight, and this is who they’re sandwiched between:

  1. Thunderstruck by Erlend Bratland
  2. Louder by Raylee
  3. All Over The World by Tor & Bettan
  4. Next To You by Jenny Langlo
  5. We Don’t Worry by Ira Konstantinidis
  6. Heaven by Contrazt
  7. Ta Meg Tilbake by Marie Klåpbakken
  8. En Godt Stekt Pizza by Staysman & Lazz
  9. A Monster Like Me by Mørland & Debrah Scarlett
  10. Cinderella by Alexandra Joner
  11. Human Beings by Karin Park

My top five:

#1 | A Monster Like Me: I know, I know…Eurovision 2015 is drowning in a sea of ballads. I’ve only mentioned it 100 times in this post alone. But this is a ballad I actually WANT in the contest (unlike quite a few of the existing ones). There is something spine-tingling about the melody, the lyrics and the way Mørland and Debrah’s voices intermingle. In two words (despite the fact I’ve already used many words): hauntingly beautiful.

10842268_645929968852209_5067144199527973594_o1

If they win, I hope they look a little happier than this.

#2 | Human Beings: This is pretty much what I expected from Karin ‘I Feed You My Love’ Park, and it rocks. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and I do think it’s lacking the MGP-winning gene, but it’s unique and edgy, just like Karin herself.

#3 | Next To You: Again, this is missing whatever rings the ‘WINNER!’ bell in my brain. Still, I really like it. It’s contemporary with a well-produced Scandi sound, and somehow manages to be soaring and melancholic at the same time.

#4 | En Godt Stekt Pizza: This is a well-cooked pizza that smells like a very guilty pleasure. Staysman & Lazz have produced the trashy love child of Timber by Kesha and Woki Mit Deim Popo (a description Staysman seemed to appreciate when I tweeted it recently) and I’m ashamed to say I get a kick out of it. Yee-haw!

#5 | Cinderella: Aaaand enter the obligatory MGP r & b number that floats my boat. I highly doubt Alexandra will win, but I don’t doubt she’ll re-energise the audience as the penultimate performer.

 
So, who is in contention for the win? Worst case scenario, Contrazt AND Tor & Bettan. Don’t do it, Norway!

If I had to put money down, I’d put it down on Erlend, Staysman & Lazz, Mørland & Debrah and Karin – with the chance of Jenny subbing in for the Norwegian Trackshittaz.

Narrowing it down even further – Mørland & Debrah’s Monster has been calling out to me as ‘The One’ since the MGP entries were released. I do worry that it’s similar enough to Silent Storm for Norway to be looking for something different to represent them in 2015, in which case Karin, or Erlend – with his stadium pop that I don’t really “get” – could take the prize. But, as many ballads and he/she duets we already have booking flights to Austria, I can’t help wanting one more to succeed Carl Espen. A Monster Like Me FTW, or else!*

 

* ‘Else’ = me getting my sadface on, good and proper.

 

Melfest wraps up in Sweden with a super-sized finale

I can’t believe five weeks of Melodifestivalen have gone by already. Nor can I believe I’ve gotten up at 3am every Sunday morning for the last five weeks to watch the prelim rounds. #totallyworthit. But we do still have the biggest and best installment to look forward to, plus what is sure to be an interesting round of point-giving. Though don’t expect the scores to be as close as they were between Ace Wilder and Sanna Nielsen twelve months ago…

Speaking of twelve, that’s the number of competitors in tonight’s grand finale, after Linus Svenning, Hasse Andersson, Dinah Nah and Samir & Viktor qualified from Andra Chansen last weekend, joining the eight direkt qualifiers. Here they all are, in recap and running order form:

  1. Groupie by Samir & Viktor
  2. Building It Up by JTR
  3. Make Me (La La La) by Dinah Nah
  4. Jag Är Fri (Manne Leam Frijje) by Jon Henrik Fjällgren
  5. Can’t Hurt Me Now by Jessica Andersson
  6. Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw
  7. Forever Starts Today by Linus Svenning
  8. Don’t Stop by Isa
  9. Möt Mig I Gamla Stan by Magnus Carlsson
  10. Sting by Eric Saade
  11. Don’t Stop Believing by Mariette
  12. Guld Och Gröna Skogar by Hasse Andersson

It’s an unusual running order by SVT standards, but you can find plenty of discussion on that subject elsewhere on the net (and it’ll make more sense than anything I could come up with). I’m going to leap straight in to my personal preferences and predictions.

My top five:

#1 | Heroes: A lá Melfest 2014, one of the favourites is also my favourite. On this occasion, it has nothing to do with how insanely attractive I find Måns, and everything to do with how excellent his song and staging are. Okay, that’s a lie. But I really do love the song.

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‘YES! I told you I could work these leather pants!’

#2 | Make Me (La La La): I was only too happy to bid Dolly Style farewell last week in favour of Miss Nah (not her real surname, though I wish it was). I love the costumes and choreography of this performance, and the song is a club dream with the perfect amount of 90s infusion.

#3 | Jag Är Fri: I couldn’t be less Sami, but there’s something about Jon’s joiking that I connect with on an emotional level. Throw in a Lion King-esque sound and an ethnic outfit and I’m sold.

#4 | Building It Up: I HAVE TO, GUYS. They’re Australia-associated! And you know I’m a sucker for boy band muzak. I genuinely enjoy this song, and if you’d seen JTR on the Aussie X Factor a few years ago, you’d know how much they’ve stepped up.

#5 | Groupie: I ALSO HAVE TO, GUYS. Groupie’s nothing on Samir & Viktor’s smash hit Success (despite the fact that it’s virtually the same song) but since the duo knocked my top Melfest ’15 song out of the race in Andra Chansen, I’ve decided to support them.

 
Getting on to who’s going to end up where on le scoreboard…well, every man and his schlager-loving dog have made their full, twelve-song prediction, so I think I’d better do the same. At risk of ending up dying of embarrassment.

  1. Måns Zelmerlöw – in a year where Eric Saade tried way too hard, the victory is Måns’ for the taking. If the song doesn’t do it, that adorable little cone-hat man will.
  2. Jon Henrik Fjällgren – the international juries will drag him out of winning contention, but don’t underestimate Sweden’s affection for JHF.
  3. Eric Saade – I actually wouldn’t be surprised if he ends the night lower than this.
  4. Mariette
  5. Isa
  6. Dinah Nah – I’m tipping Dinah as the AC success of the year.
  7. Magnus Carlsson
  8. Jessica Andersson – Now we’re at the final stage, Can’t Hurt Me Now will come across blander than ever.
  9. Samir & Viktor
  10. Linus Svenning – There’s something missing here. People won’t connect with this like they did with Bröder.
  11. Hasse
  12. JTR – Anything BUT last will be a win for the boys, but with the cute guy vote already split multiple ways, they will struggle to charm their way out of the 10th-12th place region.

What do you reckon? Am I right or am I a moron with all the foresight of an Ikea meatball? Hit me with your tips for Sweden down below.

If you’re tuning in to Melfest, I hope to see you on Twitter where we can discuss the science of Hasse Andersson’s appeal in his homeland, among other things. We’ll also be able to console each other when the show’s over. I have a box of tissues and a tub of ice cream at the ready!

 

As the big 4-0 comes closer, what’s left?

Not a whole lot. But the good news – or bad news, if you’re as impatient as I am – is that selection season is not ending on the EBU-ordered submission date of Monday the 16th. Montenegro has put paid to that. After tonight, there are no more national finals on the calendar (nooooooooo) but here’s what we can expect.

Sunday March 15th
Albania (Elhaida Dani’s I’m Alive reveal)
Azerbaijan (internal selection…probably of Elnur Huseynov)
Russia (Polina Gagarina’s A Million Voices reveal)

Monday March 16th
Australia (Guy Sebastian’s song reveal)
San Marino (Anita Simoncini & Michele Perniola’s song reveal)

Tuesday March 17th
Montenegro (Knez’s Adio reveal)

And that’s it, ladies and gents. Shall we cry now or cry later?

 

Let’s cry later. I’d rather revel in the glory of posting my 400th FREAKING POST, and I’m sure you’d rather join me.

*awkward silence*

Fine. A party for one it is.

 
Enjoy your weekend, peeps!

 

nsig

 

Retro Rankings | Birmingham 1998

It’s Wednesday, in case you hadn’t noticed, and on this particular Wednesday, the countdown to the ESC 2015 submission deadline is on!

In less than one week, all forty participating countries must have their s#%t together – at least to the point of handing their entries over at the Head of Delegations meeting. Did you hear that, Russia? If you don’t want a repeat of last year when you made the deadline by a babushki’s whisker, you’d better get Polina Gagarina’s song sorted STAT.

I for one am struggling, waiting to hear the songs still under wraps (Israel and San Marino are causing me actual, physical pain). In case you’re feeling the same way, I thought I’d offer a distraction in the form of something totally unrelated: another Retro Ranking! I recently ranked the Dublin 1997 contest for your reading pleasure (hopefully) and as I’m in a chronological mood today, I’m going to plod on with Birmingham 1998.

The last time the United Kingdom played host to Eurovision, Terry Wogan was co-emcee, Ulrika Jonsson fell victim to the noise level in the auditorium and Dana International took her sweet time changing outfits and getting back to the stage for her winning reprise. In amongst all of that were performances of 25 songs – songs that were, as is always the case in the ESC, good, bad and ugly (though being 1998, the ‘ugly’ really just refers to some of the costumes).

Watch this recap of the Birmingham entries if you need a refresher, check out my rankings below, then comment me with your favourites from the Class of ’98! You know you want to.

 

 
#1 | The Netherlands (Hemel En Aarde by Edsilia Rombley) – Before she was On Top of the World in Helsinki (until she failed to make the final, that is) Edsilia moved, grooved and flawlessly key-changed her way through this irresistibly catchy number in Birmingham. There is nothing that doesn’t work for me in her performance – 90s fashion notwithstanding – from her smooth and soulful vocals to the cute bits of choreography she does with her backing singers. Hemel En Aarde itself, though, is the pièce de résistance: three minutes of happy, funky pop that I could never get tired of.

She may have had the same haircut as most of her competitors, but Edsilia was superior in every other respect.

She may have had the same haircut as most of her competitors, but Edsilia was superior in every other respect.

#2 | United Kingdom (Where Are You? by Imaani) – Ah, remember the days when the UK couldn’t stop being a Eurovision success? No? Me neither. I was six-going-on-seven and had no idea what an ESC was when Imaani leapfrogged over Chiara into second place (at the very last moment) on home soil. Fast forward to 2015, when just getting on the left side of the scoreboard is a major achievement for the UK, and I now not only know what an ESC is (and then some) I also think Where Are You? is one of the strongest host entries ever. While very 90s in nature, it’s aged pretty well. The mixture of dance music and Imaani’s R & B-suited voice is powerful, and I don’t mind that the song is repetitive because again, it’s catchier than chicken pox.

#3 | Sweden (Kärleken Är by Jill Johnson) – I’ll admit, I thought this was a bit bland at first. But over time, I’ve grown to absolutely adore it, if I may gush without you rolling your eyes and/or retching. Written in response to the death of Princess Diana, it’s a song with emotional weight that you can feel especially in the choruses. It’s almost an anti-Diva, being so soft and understated, and I just wish Jill’s outfit had been chosen to match. The head-to-toe black and giant platform heels were more ‘castoffs from Alla Pugachova’s seemingly drunken performance at Eurovision 1997’ than ‘pretty, sentimental ballad’.

In case anyone died during her performance, Jill went all black to ensure she could go straight to their funeral afterwards (I assume).

In case anyone died during her performance, Jill went all black to ensure she could go straight to their funeral afterwards (I assume).

#4 | France (Ou Aller by Marie Line) – This entry did not fare well in the contest, and I can only put that down to the voters and jurors having extremely poor taste in music. Or, you know, people just having different tastes to my own. Oui, Marie Line says ‘ou aller’ about six hundred times in 180 seconds, and oui, the song doesn’t build up to much…but I love the sound anyway. It’s a throwback to earlier on in the decade, and makes me think of Ultra Naté and Sonique. That in turn reminds me of my primary school socials, and they were good times. Très, très bien.

#5 | Ireland (Is Always Over Now? By Dawn) – There’s not that much difference between this song and any number of the insipid love-related ballads Ireland sent to Eurovision in the 90s and early 2000s. Yet there is something about Ireland ’98 that appeals to me. Dawn isn’t a man with a questionable haircut and an ill-fitting suit, which sets her apart a bit (she’s a woman with both of those things) and Is Always Over Now? is more pop and less lame/depressing than most of those man-ballads. Random query: is it just me, or does Dawn look like Kelly Clarkson?

Never mind...I just answered my own question.

Never mind…I just answered my own question.

#6 | Portugal (Se Eu Te Pudesse Abraçar by Alma Lusa)
#7 | Estonia (Mere Lapsed by Koit Toome) – They did reasonably well with a sleepy ballad the year before, so I guess Estonia’s thinking here was ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t send a dance banger.’ Mere Lapsed could easily put you to sleep, which to some would be a blaring indicator of boringness. To me, it’s melodically nice enough to set up camp outside of vanilla territory. Cruisy, easy listening like this can be a welcome vacation from the Dancing Lasha Tumbais of the world.

#8 | Cyprus (Genesis by Michael Hajiyanni)
#9 | Malta (The One That I Love by Chiara) – Chiara reached the bronze medal position for Malta in her first of three Eurovision attempts (and don’t think she won’t be back for more!). She did so with what I think is her best entry…on those days where I’m not leaning towards Angel. It’s always her voice that’s the star of the show, so much so on this occasion that you hardly even notice how hideous her snot-coloured suit-dress-thing is until she’s stopped singing.

#10 | Poland (To Takie Proste by Sixteen)
#11 | Israel (Diva by Dana International) – I believe there were stronger songs – and definitely stronger vocal performances – in Birmingham than what Israel provided. Diva is a decent track and a high-energy winner, but I it’s worn thin with me over the years thanks to self-inflicted overexposure. Dana herself, however, is fabulous personified and will never be passé.

The flamboyance of the feathers or this spangled silver number? No wonder Dana had a hard time deciding.

The flamboyance of the feathers or this spangled silver number? No wonder Dana had a hard time deciding.

#12 | Croatia (Neka Mi Ne Svane by Danijela)
#13 | Switzerland (Lass’ Ihn by Gunvor)
#14 | Germany (Guildo Hat Euch Lieb by Guildo Horn) – Never trust anyone who voluntarily wears crushed velvet. If they’ll do that, they’ll do anything, including scale the Eurovision stage as part of their act. I suppose that’s just gravy on top of an already ridiculous package feat. a wild mane of hair, the world’s thickest eyebrows, and Guildo (owner of said mane and brows) getting up close and personal with some (un) lucky audience members. The man could barely be called a singer, but you have to admire his showman qualities. He got the crowd going like nobody else.

#15 | Greece (Mia Krifi Evesthisia by Thalassa)
#16 | Finland (Aava by Edea) – Instead of using the Secret Garden approach of taking a few words and repeating them twice, Finland took a few words and repeated them for more or less the entirety of their allotted three minutes. It didn’t do them many favours. Still, there’s appeal in the mystical, folky vibes of Aava.

#17 | Norway (Alltid Sommer by Lars Fredriksen)
#18 | Spain (¿Qué Voy a Hacer Sin Ti? by Mikel Herzog) – ‘Mikel Herzog’ is clearly a stage name, because, unless I am much mistaken, this was Harry Potter representing Spain. It’s a shame Ron and Hermione didn’t help him pick out a more interesting song.

‘Accio Eurovision victory!’

‘Accio Eurovision victory!’

#19 | Turkey (Unutamazsın by Tüzmen)
#20 | FYR Macedonia (Ne Zori, Zoro by Vlado Janevski)
#21 | Slovenia (Naj Bogovi Slišijo by Vili Resnik) – There were so many overly-dramatic ballads like this in 1990s contests, it’s hard for any in particular to stand out. This one’s not terrible, but it’s certainly not my cup of tea.

#22 | Romania (Eu Cred by Mălina Olinescu)
#23 | Slovakia (Modlitba by Katarína Hasprová)
#24 | Belgium (Dis Oui by Mélanie Cohl) – How on earth this made the top 10 is a mystery to me. I find it unbelievably irritating, in large part thanks to Mélanie’s grating vocals. You want me to say yes? I don’t think so. Quelle horreur!

#25 | Hungary (A Holnap Már Nem Lesz Szomorú by Charlie)

 

Now my #1 through #25 is out in the open, you know what to do…tell me how you’d rank Eurovision 1998!

 

nsig

SUPER SATURDAY #5 | Guy Sebastian, O-M-Germany and Andra Chansen predictions!

Well, well, well…what a big, controversial week it’s been in the Eurovision-verse!

After Eduard Romanyuta’s questionable win in the Moldovan final last Saturday (Belarus and their completely-legit-for-once NF are seething with jealousy) we had a) Australia announce the artist we’re sending to Vienna, a choice met with a whole lotta negativity; and b) the winner of the German final decline the ticket to Eurovision on live TV. Forget about Days of Our Lives – selection season is where all the drama’s at this year.

I’m going to be giving my verdict on said drama right here, right now. I’ll also be revealing the results of the Andra Chansen polls you guys voted in to help me predict tonight’s Melodifestivalen qualifiers. Believe me when I say that I needed all the help on the planet (not that I got all the help on the planet, but I got a decent amount, and I’m very grateful. So, yeah. Thanks).

But first, let’s take a look at the upcoming events on the ESC calendar.

  • TONIGHT: Portugal’s Festival da Canção final; Sweden’s Melodifestivalen second chance round; the United Kingdom’s entry reveal
  • SUNDAY: Romania’s Selecţia Naţională final
  • MONDAY: Poland’s entry reveal
  • TUESDAY: Belgium and the Czech Republic’s song reveals

With three events taking place this evening, we’ve arrived at the penultimate Super Saturday in the lead-up to Eurovision 2015. Enjoy it for Portugal, Sweden or the UK – or perhaps all three – while it lasts!

 

What a Guy? Idol alumni to fly the Aussie flag in Vienna; not everyone’s happy about it

…and what shocking news that is. Since when did we all not agree on absolutely everything concerning Eurovision?

Since FOREVER, that’s when. But quite frankly, I’m appalled at the negative reactions to Australian Idol’s first winner Guy Sebastian being announced as Australia’s representative. It’s amazing how quickly people can change their tune when they don’t get what they want.

Guy wasn’t at the forefront of my mind as I waited for Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang to quit stalling and just tell us who it is, goddammit, on Thursday morning. But once Guy did walk out in his triple-denim ensemble (which he was totally rocking, by the way) I felt both relieved and excited by the choice.

In front of the waiting press stood an artist who had risen to fame through a TV talent show back in 2003, and had managed to sustain his popularity and success all this time via album releases and arena tours, plus a three year stint as an X Factor judge. There, he mentored two winners in a row, no doubt drawing on his own experiences to guide them.

Sure, it was clear during the press conference that Guy was no Eurovision expert, but he’d done his homework. And, since he had accepted the offer to participate and clearly saw it as an honour (which it bloody well is!) we know he’s viewing this as a positive career move – but, as he stated, it’s much more that that. It’s a chance for him to be a part of something special and represent Australia on an international stage.

AUSTRALIAN EUROVISION ANNOUNCEMENT

Playing Jemini’s performance of ‘Cry Baby’ for Guy wasn’t the best idea SBS had ever had…

As an Australian Idol tragic from way back, I will be proud to wave a flag – or a placard reading ‘GO THA FRO!!!’ which you’ll understand if you’re a fellow Aussie – for Guy come May. I remember being a 12-year-old reality TV fan, watching him warble his way through week after week on the show, never putting a foot wrong. I also recall voting (more often than I should have at $2 per phone call) for him to win the comp over bloke’s bloke Shannon Noll.

He did, and shortly afterwards he was off to London to fly the Australian flag in the World Idol competition (which was my first taste of anything remotely ESC-like, and I LOVED it). He didn’t exactly set the scoreboard on fire there, but I wasn’t too bothered since I was busy lamenting the last place of Dutch Jamai Loman. I wasn’t to know that seeing the Netherlands’ entry fail miserably would be good prep for my future as Eurovision freak.

Fast forward to 2015, and it’s clear that the World Idol experience didn’t affect Guy negatively. In fact, it probably prepared him for Eurovision as much as something un-Eurovision related could. He’s released seven top 10 albums in Australia – two of which topped the charts – and had seven #1 singles. His 2012 single Battle Scars, featuring Lupe Fiasco, charted in Scandinavia and the US, and scored the duo a performance slot on The David Letterman Show. Not too shabby of a career, is it?

And yet many people – including a lot of Australians – couldn’t be outraged fast enough by his selection as our ESC artist. They were also quick to compose articles detailing the many acts who would be ‘better for Eurovision’. Real classy, guys. Don’t give the man a chance to pick out and premiere his song or anything. Don’t wait for five minutes until he’s tested it out at Eurovision in Concert, or until he begins rehearsals in the Stadthalle and we see how the staging and song come together – just slag him off now because he’s not your ideal representative!

That was sarcasm, in case you were unsure. We all had preconceived ideas of who would be the most suitable choice, and no matter what happened, not all of us were going to be happy. But to be one of those haters who, in Guy’s words (a.k.a. Taylor Swift’s words) were gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate when it’s not going to change anything, is unnecessary. There’s a difference between voicing your opinion and just being mean. Would Guy Sebastian be my ultimate pick to represent us? No. But as it stands, we will be represented by someone credible, talented, current and versatile, who’s in it for the right reasons. And I reckon that’s quite a coup on behalf of SBS and Blink TV.

With the March 16 submission deadline approaching, we’re sure to hear the Australian entry in the near future. That’s when I hope fans will toe the line between voicing their opinion and respecting the opinions of those who disagree with them. I also hope that when it’s go time, Guy can defy the negative expectations and give Australia a performance – and result – to be proud of.

 

Germany: Winners aren’t always grinners as Andreas makes way for Ann Sophie

Aaaaaand rant over! Now I’m turning my attention to some controversy of a different kind, which came from an unlikely source – Unser Song Für Österreich. I swear, Belarus must be horrified that they’re no longer the perpetrators of the most scandalous NF in Europe.

Germany’s final came to an end on Thursday night with wildcard entrant Ann Sophie and Black Smoke taking out the top prize. Of course, that was after initial winner Andreas Kümmert shocked everyone watching, hosting and participating in the show by refusing to be crowned champ and handing the title over to her instead. How do you say ‘Oh, the awkwardness!’ in German?

untitled

What’s the betting this was all an elaborate plan to have physical contact with Ann Sophie?

If you want to relive the cringe-fest as it unfolded, you can do so here (with English subtitles). While you’re doing that, you might wonder why Andreas decided to enter USFO in the first place. Did he not think he had a chance of winning? Was he always intending to say thanks, but no thanks (or danke, but nein danke) if it came to that, or did it suddenly occur to him that he wasn’t ready for Eurovision when it DID come to that? Whatever the reason, he’s tossed Ann Sophie a massive bag of mixed feelings, I’m guessing.

It’s like Andreas was Miss Universe (if you can picture him in an evening gown with a plunging neckline) and Ann was runner-up, only for her to nab the crown when Andreas dethroned himself on the grounds of not feeling universe-y enough. She’d be thrilled to have it on her head, but she’d always know that she hadn’t been the judges’ first choice. You’ve got to feel sorry for her, having been put into a position like that.

Still, she will be taking the short trip to Vienna – as will Black Smoke. It’s the only USFO song I’ve listened to at this point, and while it’s not an indication of Germany being back at their Raab-driven best, it has a lot of pros.

It’s not a ballad (which has turned out to be a major plus this year); it’s a well-crafted pop song that could be on the radio pretty much anywhere right now; and it has a stylish and confident performer in Ann Sophie. With a bit of work on nailing her choruses, she’ll do just fine in May. I don’t think she’s got the goods to get Germany back on the left side of the scoreboard, but she could well outdo Elaiza’s 18th place with a song that has greater mass appeal than Is It Right?

That’s assuming Andreas doesn’t change his mind and demand his winning title back. You heard it here first!

 

Sweden’s second chance round is ready to roll + the AC poll results revealed!

Week 5 of Melfest has arrived right on schedule, which means nobody lost the stage as it was being carted cross-country. Helsingborg is playing host to this year’s Andra Chansen round with a difference. Instead of two songs fighting two battles each to win their way into the final, there’ll be four qualifiers tonight. Each must win just one duel to get the golden ticket they’ve been hoping for since being relegated to AC in their respective semis.

Let’s cut to the chase and review/predict those head-to-head musical fistfights, shall we? Remember, the predictions are yours and mine. Thanks again to all of y’all who voted in the polls.

 
Duel 1: Bring Out The Fire by Andreas Weise VS Forever Starts Today by Linus Svenning

d1

WHO I WANT TO WIN: This is a tough one. I want to say Linus, but he lacks the vocal power and confidence that Andreas has in spades. Both songs are reasonably derivative, but catchy and well-staged. Hmm…I’m going to have to go with Andreas, based on the quality of the whole package.

WHO WILL WIN: With 73% of your votes, Linus. So I guess I’m in the minority, then!

 
Duel 2: Guld Och Gröna Skogar by Hasse Andersson VS I See You by Kristin Amparo

d2

WHO I WANT TO WIN: Hasse brings some old-fashioned fun to the proceedings, but it’s hard to bypass Kristin’s impeccable and powerful vocal performance. If she goes to the final, she’ll have Jessica Andersson quaking in her stilettos for sure.

WHO WILL WIN: 76% of you say it will be Kristin. Look out, Jessica.

 
Duel 3: Hello Hi by Dolly Style VS Make Me (La La La) by Dinah Nah

d3

WHO I WANT TO WIN: Hello Hi is my guilty pleasure of the year, but there is something about those three wig-wearing, pastel-clad dollies that irritates me. Dinah’s song is the equally dance-driven, but more sophisticated fighter in this battle, so I hope she takes this one out.

WHO WILL WIN: 71% of you believe Dinah will do it, and leave Dolly Style in her dust.

 
Duel 4: Det Rår Vi Inte För by Behrang Miri feat. Victor Crone VS Groupie by Samir & Viktor

d4

WHO I WANT TO WIN: I was rooting for both of these in their separate semis, but now they’re butting heads, it’s Behrang, Victor, and apparently Malena Ernmann all the way. The addition of Malena seems like a random and slightly desperate vote-pulling tactic, but if it works, I won’t be complaining.

WHO WILL WIN: This was a close call, but edging ahead with 57% was Behrang and Victor.

 
So, to sum up, together we’re predicting that Linus, Kristin, Dinah and Behrang/Victor will progress from AC direkt til final. I’d be fairly happy with that outcome!

 

That’s it for another Saturday-night ramble, folks. I’ll leave you to your NF-viewing preparations as I undertake mine (they mostly involve pre-event napping…it’s hard work, but somebody has to do it).

Let me know what you think of all things Australia, Germany and Sweden down below – and your thoughts on anything else Eurovisual you’ve been dying to get off your chest. Just think of me as your official ESC therapist.

Seriously, I’ve put it on my résumé and I’d really like it to be true.

 
nsig

 

MUSICAL MUSINGS | The weekend aftermath, my top 21 + help me predict Andra Chansen!

March may be upon us, but if you’re still reeling from all the jazz that took place on the last night of February – that is, the national final madness – I can empathise.

In the mind of Jaz right now, there’s chaos. But I know the key to sorting it out is to get it all off my chest, in a stream-of-consciousness blog post that provides a free steak dinner to anyone who reads it all the way through.

So let the thoughts on Saturday, a little of Sunday, and a few other bits and pieces, flow free. That includes yours, my friends. Be caring and get sharing in the comments!

 

Reacting to the news from an NF-antastic weekend (and beyond)

Australia
An announcement of our representative in ‘the first week of March’ is now an announcement that will take place this Thursday morning – via a press conference at the Sydney Opera House, no less. Shortly after 9.30am AEST (which is a slightly-earlier-than-I-would-prefer 6.30am for me) the world will know who’s flying the Blue Ensign (i.e. our flag) for the first, and I suspect, last, time in Eurovision history. I barely attempted guessing the identity of the artist before giving up on it, and all I really want is a good song, performed by a good singer, that I feel proud (rather than obligated) to cheer for. All my body parts are crossed for luck’s sake!

Finland
So, it happened. Not for the first time this selection season, a country chose my least favourite song to represent them. On this occasion, it was Aina Mun Pitää by Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät (or PKN, now that we’ll have to type it on a regular basis). I don’t feel like I can sum up everything bulging out of my brain-box re: this entry in a few lines, so see the Finland-only section below for more information.

Hungary
In a turn of events that shocked…well, nobody, Boglarka ‘Boggie’ Csemer took out A Dal with Wars For Nothing. Poor Kati Wolf didn’t even make the top four. Though Boggie was my least favourite entrant back when A Dal was about to kick off, and I would have ultimately preferred Kati, Passed, Ív or Spoon to be heading off to Vienna on behalf of Hungary, I am slowly coming around on her song. I know, I know, I was bemoaning how much of a lame message song it is just a few days ago…but I’m extremely fickle, okay?

20150301eurovizios-dalfesztival--a-dal

She may look like a pacifist…but the backstage storage room packed with bound-and-gagged A Dal contestants says otherwise.

Moldova
Well, I’m happy even if nobody else is, and I’m praying that Eduard Romanyuta’s I Want Your Love makes it to Vienna. With Ukraine out of the contest this year and the Belarusian final being surprisingly devoid of scandal, it was Moldova’s turn to have a controversial winner who may or may not be dethroned. The mass amount of televotes Eduard and his so-2000s-it-hurts-but-I-freaking-LOVE-it number received is peculiar. But until there’s evidence that all is not legit, I say BACK OFF to the haters. And to all those slamming Eduard because he’s Ukrainian, not Moldovan – shame on you. Rules are rules, and a non-national would not have been allowed to compete (with the chance of winning) if it wasn’t permitted.

Slovenia
As predicted, Slovenia made the best choice possible, selecting Maraaya’s Here For You. I like the direction Eurovision is heading in, accepting more and more songs like this into the fold – songs that are current, have edge, and generally refuse to fit the stereotypical ESC mould. This particular one is more of a grower than an instant douze-pointer for me, but I expect it to grow on me in a big way over the coming months.

Spain
After a long period of buildup, Edurne’s Amanecer was finally premiered on Sunday, and responses have been divided. That buildup may be responsible for many fans’ expectations not being met. My expectations were fairly fuzzy, and after one listen of the song, I still remember the chorus and the fact that I rather like the rest. It’s dramatic, atmospheric, and very Spanish. I can see it being amazing live if Edurne can belt it out anything like she does in studio. For someone who knew Dancing In The Rain was good but was never that attached to it (that’s me) Amanecer is a step up. And, FYI, ‘amanecer’ is officially my new favourite word of all the words.

Sweden
Melodifestivalen’s final semi ended in best case scenario-style for this Måns Zelmerlöw/boyband enthusiast. Mr. Zelmerlöw went direkt with the refreshing anti-Saade package of Heroes, his staging so minimalist yet mind-blowing, it was obvious he’s in it to win it, without it being too obvious (Mr. Saade should be taking notes). Joining MZW was the act I was just hoping would squeeze into Andra Chansen – JTR! Having followed them since their X Factor Australia days, trust me when I say the boys have come very far since then, and not just geographically. I still can’t believe they made the final, and while I don’t expect them to trouble the top of the scoreboard there, I am SO happy for them right now.

Oh, and Dinah Nah/Hasse Andersson are the final pair heading off to AC.

Jtr-mans-zelmerlow

Melodifestivalen or the Mr Sweden competition? Who can tell?

 

Now, for that Finnish rant I promised…

 

Finland’s choice: Weird or wonderful, ‘Wow!’ or ‘WTF?’

The hottest debate of the Eurovision year so far is the one still raging over Finland’s choice. My own initial reaction involved profanity, for which I blame shock. Shock at a song I never saw as a true UMK contender ending the evening victorious.

Reading everyone else’s reactions web-wide, you can find those who appreciate the punk genre and the message of Aina Mun Pitää; those who believe all the haters are being prejudiced towards PKN themselves; those who are prejudiced; and those who like the band but not the song. After learning a little more about PKN through these comments, I still find myself pitching my tent in the latter camp.

When it comes to Eurovision performers, I’m not fussy. I believe anyone, of any gender, culture, background, sexuality, height, age or disability status should have the right to compete, and feel accepted when they do. But if the song they are bringing with them isn’t to my taste, I’m not going to patronise that artist by pretending otherwise. As someone who can vote this year (I’m still wrapping my head around that!) I will not be voting for Finland, because I do not like PKN’s song. Based on what the guys have stated to the media, they would be fine with that. They don’t want sympathy votes.

That won’t stop them from getting some, and to a point, votes for a performer rather than for their song are part and parcel of Eurovision. We’ve all questioned whether Rise Like A Phoenix would have won the contest if Tom Neuwirth had sung it in a suit; or if any other song that Conchita Wurst had fronted would have won as easily. Of course, any votes Conchita pulled in that were unrelated to her song weren’t sympathy votes. They were personality and “character”-based votes. Had I been able to vote in 2014, I may well have texted a few in for Conchita because I think she’s incredible, and RLAP was a song that suited her perfectly and had a ton of impact.

Finland 2015 differs from Austria 2014 in so many ways. I like PKN as people, and I think it’s so great for them to be making music and getting it out on an international stage. But Aina Mun Pitää is far from being my cup of tea, and I’m glad it’s as short as it is so I don’t have to put up with it for three entire minutes.

We dodged a similar bullet back in Eesti Laul 2013, when Winny Puuh mercifully failed to capture Estonia’s allegiance. But now we’re directly in the line of fire, and there’s no side-stepping. It’s like narrowly missing being hit by a monster truck only to hop back up onto the sidewalk, trip over a crack and break your neck on a fire hydrant (we are clearly in some version of New York where monster trucks are part of routine traffic in this comparison).

So, if you ask me if Finland made the best choice in terms of Eurovision success by picking PKN, I’d say no. I respect that it IS Finland’s choice, and I think the country should be proud to have backed a group of people who can change some perceptions on such a platform. It’s also a positive for Eurovision to feature a wide variety of musical genres, and punk will certainly break up the ballads that are dominating the lineup so far.

However, I can’t help wishing that PKN had done just well enough in the UMK final to come second to Satin Circus. Their message would still have been received by an entire nation, which would have been wonderful for them, and the collective Eurofan-verse would have been more content. Well, I would have been, anyway.

8dflFFx-

It’s not the faces, but the song that matters to me…and boy, am I going to miss this one.

Still, I wish the best of luck to PKN in their Eurovision quest. I hope they have a great experience in Vienna, and that there are enough fans of punk watching on to send some genuine, music-based points their way.

I just hope they don’t win. Helsinki 2016 = hell no!

 

For ranking’s sake…EBJ’s tentative top 21

Does anyone else have trouble arranging the filling in their song-ranking sandwich? If you have no idea what I’m talking about, allow me to clarify: I find it easy to decide which Eurovision entries I love, and which ones I hate, but everything in-between is often a big ol’ mess. I can never decide how to arrange the songs I don’t have strong opinions on.

Hashtag ESC fan problems.

Still, I’ve given this top 21 my best shot, but I am keeping the stone I was planning to set it my cupboard for now. Hit me up with your current top 5, 10, 15 or 21 down below!

 

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Fig.1: An extremely cryptic visual clue as to who’s on top of my list.

1. Italy – Don’t expect Il Volo to be demoted anytime soon, folks. I’m in love, and the rose-coloured glasses are not coming off.
2. Estonia
3. Moldova – This is total trash from an alleyway dumpster. But it just so happens that alley belongs to me. Get it? Because this song is up my alley?
4. Iceland
5. Latvia
6. Macedonia – Listened to this again after a hiatus, and now I think it’s underrated.
7. Spain
8. Malta – Amber’s Warrior has overtaken Nina’s at this point. Don’t ask why. I don’t have the answer.
9. Switzerland
10. Slovenia
11. Georgia
12. Netherlands
13. Serbia
14. Ireland – This one’s sneaking up on me as a possible future favourite.
15. Belarus – The revamped version is suffering from Litesound syndrome. Uzari and Maimuna deserve better.
16. Lithuania
17. Denmark
18. Hungary – A few weeks ago, this would have been on the bottom.
19. Cyprus
20. France
21. Finland – As I attempted to explain above, what it comes down to is that punk isn’t my thing. That’s it.

Now that we know just over half of the songs that will compete in Vienna, we’re all wondering: have we heard the winner yet? I wouldn’t rule it out, but I wouldn’t bet on it either. Remember, Australia’s coming for you, Europe!

 

OMG, AC! Vote to help me call Sweden’s second chance round

Andra Chansen, the penultimate round of Melfest, is imminent. And this year, the process has changed, with the odds of making the final greater than ever for the eight participants.

Four of them will appear on stage at Friends Arena next weekend, which means it should be much easier to predict the outcome. Yet, somehow, it’s REALLY REALLY NOT.

Making a 50/50 choice has never been my strong point. SVT have done their best to pit animals of the same species against each other in the four duels – Andreas Weise VS Linus Svenning, Hasse Andersson VS Kristin Amparo, Dolly Style VS Dinah Nah and Behrang Miri/Victor Crone VS Samir & Viktor – and in doing do, they’ve made the duels very tricky to call.

That’s why I need your help. Yes, I’m talking to you (your hair looks nice today, by the way). So slip into your prediction pants and give me a hand in choosing which four songs are most likely to make it out of Andra Chansen!

Results will be revealed on Saturday. If you need a reminder of the songs with a second chance, all the performances are watchable here.

 

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Now that’s taken care of, I think I may have said all I wanted to say. For now *insert menacing laughter here*. So if you’ve done your duty and voted in le above polls, you are now free to go about your daily business. If you’re anything like me, that will involve a) putting off important stuff in favour of revising your 2015 rankings, b) reading the entire archives of Wiwibloggs, and c) popping into the supermarket to buy Melfest-viewing snacks.

Have fun!

 
nsig

 

SUPER SATURDAY #4 | Four fabulous finals (and a semi) to finish up February

It’s Saturday, and you know the drill. Get ready to party, and to complain about the ridiculous results that will no doubt ensue on an eventful night like this!

 

TONIGHT: Finland’s UMK final, Hungary’s A Dal final, Moldova’s O Melodie Pentru Europa final, Slovenia’s EMA final, Sweden’s Melodifestivalen semi final four

 

Results + revelations of February’s final week

  • Estonia: What’s jaw-dropping about Stig Rästa & Elina Born’s Eesti Laul victory isn’t that it happened (that was more or less a done deal from day one). Nope, it’s the stats that came with the win that are astounding. More than 37 000 televotes ahead of their nearest rival coming into the super final (HOLY CRAP!), they walked away from it with 79% of the votes, leaving Daniel Levi and Elisa Kolk with a measly 13% and a pitiful 8% respectively. Wowsers in trousers!
  • Hungary: Kati Wolf narrowly won A Dal’s second semi ahead of Passed, nabbing herself a place in the final alongside Passed (obviously), Ív, Bálint Gájer, and the previous week’s four qualifiers. Can she repeat that success this evening? I don’t think so, but I am very happy nonetheless to see her make it this far.
  • Ireland: Sadly, Erika Selin and her backup act Timoteij failed to win over the Emerald Isle last night, with sixteen-year-old Molly Sterling doing the deed instead. She’s taking Playing With Numbers, which she co-wrote, to Vienna. It’s another ballad to add into the mix, but the girl can sing and play the piano at the same time, and the song does have grower potential. Plus, if her stylist has an ill-timed breakdown – which I assume is the explanation for Kasey Smith’s monstrosity in Copenhagen – it’ll be mostly obscured by the piano, so it shouldn’t affect her chances.
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Molly, the moment after she was asked for her opinion on Kasey’s Eurovision outfit.

  • Latvia: Aminata’s Love Injected won the day, and I think it’s rather fabulous. I rarely have reasons to pick up a Latvian flag come Eurovision time, but I might be dusting one off this year.
  • Lithuania: The Common Linnets Effect is rubbing off all over the conhttps://eurovisionbyjaz.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=3118&action=edittinent, with Lithuania electing to send a male-female pair just as Belarus, the Czech Republic, Estonia and San Marino have done. Only instead of Calm After The Storm, Vaidas & Monika will be performing Coming Home by Firelight. Er, I mean, This Time. That awkward-as-heck stage kiss has GOT to go pre-ESC.
  • Sweden: Jon Henrik Fjällgren sailed (presumably) through to the Melodifestivalen final at the pointy end of the third semi, taking teen pop purveyor Isa with him. Andreas Weise and Kristin Amparo deservedly received the second chance spots.

 

 

FINLAND: UMK, OK?

It is okay, verging on pretty good, as we come to the final stage of competition in Finland. Nine acts remain, and there are just one or two that would make my Finnish flag droop if they were victorious.

No Voy A Llorar Por Ti by Norlan “El Misionario”
Aina Mun Pitää by Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät
Crossroads by Satin Circus
Ostarilla by Shava
Heart of Light by Opera Skaala
Lions and Lambs by Jouni Aslak
Hold Your Colours by Solju
Särkyneiden Sydänten Kulmilla by Järjestyshäiriö
All For Victory by Angelo De Nile

There have been some surprising qualifiers along the UMK way this year, which makes me think that tonight’s result could be surprising too. If a song I’m not so crazy about does top the scoreboard, I’ll try not to judge it too hastily in the wake of my 2014 turnaround on Softengine.

FYI, here are the songs I AM crazy about:

  • Crossroads – This is so far up my street you’d need a full tank of fuel to locate it.
  • Heart of Light - In-your-face crazy, but also crazy good.
  • Hold Your Colours – Soothing and pretty.
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Three very different acts; three lots of faces I’m keen to see in Vienna.

One of those songs would win in a world where I make all the Euro-decisions, but as we do not live in that world (sob!) I’m going to be objective and tip Ostarilla or Särkyneiden Sydänten Kulmilla (say that three times fast…or even just the once). Neither of those would horrify me.

If Aina Mun Pitää or All For Victory win, however, I will spend a considerable amount of time afterwards weeping into my ‘I <3 SATIN CIRCUS’ poster. For the love of Lordi, don’t let it happen!

 

HUNGARY: A less-than-Dal finale

That’s right. It may be A Dal by name, but as is becoming a trend, Hungary’s final is not at all Dal (or dull, in case you still hadn’t got that) by nature. Most of the stuff that made me go ‘ugh!’ has been weeded out of the field, and now, eight potential representatives remain.

Give Me Your Love by Ádám Szabó
Wars For Nothing by Boggie
Beside You by Zoltán Mujahid
Keep Marching On by Spoon
Fire by Ív
Ne Engedj El by Kati Wolf
Mesmerize by Passed
That’s How It Goes by Bálint Gájer

My top four:

  • Keep Marching On I may be a little too old to fit the traditional boy-band fangirl mould, but I will continue denying that fact as I scream hysterically in support of these dashing young whippersnappers, and their 1D-lite sing-along song.
  • Fire Like I said last week, this is cool, which is funny considering it’s called Fire. I’d be surprised if it went any further, but pleasantly so.
  • Ne Engedj El I don’t know if it has the legs to win, but Kati (who does have legs) has charmed me to an extent she never did with What About My Dreams this time around. On the off chance she takes it, I hope she’ll rely on Hungarian to deliver her beautiful ballad in Vienna. If ByeAlex can do it, so can she!
  • Mesmerize Here’s another weird and wonderful pop song that grabs attention based on individuality rather than OTT-ness. It’s not the best live song, though, so I doubt Hungary will send it to Eurovision.
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Passed do their best impression of family picture time.

My tip for the actual top four would be Ádám, Boggie, Kati and Passed – but whatever you do, DO NOT bet actual money on it unless its money you’re willing to give up without blaming me for the loss.

Of those four, there’s one that refuses to stop niggling at me as the winner, and it’s the one I’d be least happy to see go through because I don’t get the fuss…but I’m pegging Boggie for the win. Lame, message-shoved-down-your-throat lyrics aside, there is an eye-catching performance here, and I think a lot of other people are getting the emotional connection to Wars For Nothing that I’m not (I’m too busy fumbling for a sick bag).

But if my top four prediction comes true (HA!) and the decision is left up to televoters who turn out to be less enthused by Boggie than the jurors have been, we could be looking at Mr. Szabó as the prize-winner. Until then, I’ll continue to hold out hope that Kati and her now less-voluminous hair will be gracing the Stadthalle stage with their presence.

 

MOLDOVA: A melodie here, a melodie there

O-Melodie-Pentru-Europa-2015Sixteen, to be exact. After two semi finals, Moldova has ended up with a last-hurrah line-up of Maltese proportions. Seriously, if you’re going to the lengths of holding multiple qualifying heats, at least ditch a decent amount of songs in the process.

Maybe they’ll take that advice on board for 2016. In the meantime, there are sixteen acts still in the running to succeed Cristina Scarlat – and hopefully, none of them are feeling the need to tear their hair out onstage.

1. Lonely Stranger by Miss M
2. I’m Gonna Get You by Irina Kitoroagă
3. I Want Your Love by Eduard Romanyuta
4. Love Me by Dana Markitan
5. Up and Down by Diana Brescan
6. Inimă Fierbinte by Doinița Gherman
7. Maricica by Doredos
8. Save Me by Stela Boțan
9. About Love by Mihaela Andrei
10. I Can’t Breathe by Lidia Isac
11. Magia by Glam Girls
12. Day After Day by Sunstroke Project & Michael Ra
13. Fire by Julia Sandu
14. Danu Năzdrăvanu by Serj Kuzenkoff
15. Feelings Will Never Leave by Marcel Roșca
16. I Can Change All My Life by Valeria Pașa

Now, O Melodie Pentru Europa – as the Moldovan final is known by people who can be bothered to type it out and/or pronounce it – isn’t an NF I strive to follow closely, so I have exposed my ears only to a recap of the finalists, bar Eduard’s I Want Your Love, because I was a fan of his entry from the Ukrainian NF a couple of years ago.

As a result, I’m not going to predict a winner outright so much as throw a few names out there that are sticking out as possibles (and then gloat if one of them wins). It’s a reasonably strong final in my uneducated opinion, with Eduard, Glam Girls, returnees Sunstroke Project, Valeria, Doinița and Doredos being the acts I’d bet on if I was a betting kind of gal. It’s fortunate that I’m not, because by now I would’ve had to pawn my computer to buy food and therefore would not have been able to upload this post.

Just pick something decent, Moldova, okay?

 

SLOVENIA: Does an EMA-zing show await us?

Well…not exactly. I have sampled the goods, and I’m not convinced Slovenia’s putting its best foot forward with these eight entries:

1. Misunderstandings by Alya & Neno Belan
2. Once Too Many Times by Tim Kores
3. Glas Srca by Jana Šušteršič
4. Vse Mogoče by I.C.E.
5. Mava To by Clemens
6. Here For You by Maraaya
7. Šaltinka by Rudi Bučar En Figoni
8. Alive by Martina Majerle

Then again, I have already forgotten what the majority of them sound like, so…yeah. I’m sure Slovenia will make the best decision possible, as they did last year by choosing Tinkara (whose name I am still in the process of trying to steal because it makes her sound like a fairy godmother and I love that).

That may or may not lead to Martina Majerle packing her bags for Eurovision for what seems like the hundredth time – although this would only be her second time as a leading artist. She sang backup for Montenegro last year, and now she’s back attempting to represent the nation that sent her in 2009. Sent her without subsequent success, that is.

If it’s not her time, maybe it will be the time for yet another male/female duet – Alya & Neno – or for something ethnic that would liven up what is a ballad-heavy contest at this point – that’s from Rudi. Only time will tell.

 

SWEDEN: The Melfest semis go out with a Måns

This is the episode of Melodifestivalen I have been waiting for. I’ve been waiting for it ever since trio of brothers JTR were announced as competitors of this fourth and final semi. You’ll already know that the boys won their way into my heart (or at least the heart of the tragic teen fangirl in me) during their time on The X Factor Australia in 2013, costing me a small fortune in SMS votes in the process (110% worth it). Back then, they finished 7th, which is not a position they’ll want to be finishing in tonight.

1. Don’t Say No by Midnight Boy
2. Black Swan by Caroline Wennergren
3. Building It Up by JTR
4. Guld Och Gröna Skogar by Hasse Andersson
5. Make Me (La La La) by Dinah Nah
6. Ett Andetag by Annika Herlitz
7. Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw

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Only four of these acts will be looking this happy after tonight.

In a semi with one act certain to go direkt til final (Måns), a dansband institution Sweden will find it hard to say no to (Hasse) and someone loosely associated with the movie Frozen (Annika) it’s going to be a tough ask for JTR to make that all-important top four – but don’t dismiss them just yet. I will be cheering on Melfest’s first (as far as I know) semi-Australian act with all the energy I can muster at 3am, until their fate is cemented.

Now, for my personal top four based on dem snippets…

  • Don’t Say No It’s heavily 80s-influenced. He wears crop-tops and has a weird haircut. Need I say more?
  • Building It Up – Again, need I say more? I think the above gush-fest told y’all everything you didn’t want to know about my totally biased love for JTR.
  • Ett Andetag – I’m not sure about her voice, but I like what I heard of this ballad. It’s not as theatrical as I’d expected.
  • Heroes – This definitely seems like a calming antidote to Eric Saade’s OTT Sting. Hopefully it comes across as being authentic, not just as a highly-orchestrated bid to win.

Throwing taste aside and talking tips:

DIREKT TIL FINAL: Hasse, Måns
TIL ANDRA CHANSEN: Dinah, Annika

I’ll be praying into my pom-poms for a Swedish-Australian miracle though. If Andra is as far as JTR can go at a push, I’ll take it!

 

 
Let me know what your hopes and/or predictions are for tonight. Should Finland rock out for the second year running, or shatter some serious glass with Opera Skaala? Will it be Groundhog Day for Martina Majerle as she heads off to Eurovision again? Will Sweden do the unthinkable and not make Hasse filler in their final? SO MANY QUESTIONS, SO LITTLE TIME!

I will see you on the other side of Saturday, when we’ll have most of the answers. Until then…

 

nsig

 

Retro Rankings | Dublin 1997

Guten tag, guys and gals. It’s time for the mid-week EBJ post that has absolutely nothing to do with any of the NF action that took place over the weekend! Woohoo!

FYI: I’m not going to dissect the weekend’s results now because I’ll be delivering a mini-verdict in my review-and-prediction post this Saturday, just late enough so that nobody cares – a.k.a. in usual Jaz style. And while we’re at Justification Station, this post is also NF-less because, to be honest, I’m not at all bothered by Ireland’s upcoming song selection.

Friday is when the Emerald Isle will take their pick from an assortment of derivative, bland crap (honesty is the best policy) bar one or two songs that could possibly be filed under ‘Tolerable’, and I can’t muster up any enthusiasm for this event.

What I can do is present you with an updated ranking of the Class of 2015 so far – now minus Albania, after Elhaida Dani revealed Diell won’t be the something-something she belts out in the Wiener Stadthalle. Feel free to share your current top 15 avec moi.

1. Italy
2. Estonia
3. Iceland
4. Macedonia
5. Latvia
6. Georgia
7. Malta
8. Switzerland
9. Netherlands
10. Belarus
11. Lithuania
12. Denmark
13. Cyprus
14. Serbia
15. France

Now, from one ranking to another! Unless you’re afflicted with a disease that renders you inable to comprehend blog post titles, you’d know that’s what’s on the agenda today. Specifically, I’m heading back in ESC history to 1997.

I recently had a vintage Eurovision marathon which consisted of the ’97, ’98 and ’99 shows, and it reminded me how amazing a decade the 1990s were for the contest. It also reminded me that sitting in one place for nine hours straight does one’s rear end no favours, but that’s another story. During these latter-90s years, the gems flowed thick and fast, though not without the odd piece of junk filtering in alongside them (it wouldn’t be right if we had nothing at all to bitch about).

Right here and now, I’m going to rank Dublin 1997, from gems to junk, for what will hopefully be your reading pleasure. If you need a refresher of this edition – hosted by Carrie Crowley and a ridiculously young Ronan Keating – check out the handy recap, then get ready to comment your own likes and dislikes, re: the most recent year Ireland were reigning champions preparing to pass the torch.

 

#1 | Italy (Fiumi Di Parole by Jalisse) – No matter who’s singing for them, what their song’s like or how much of their gold underpants they’re flashing, Italy is all class (NOT all ass, which would have been the case if Emma Marrone hadn’t packed the gold undies in her suitcase). That has never been more evident than when duo Jalisse took to the Dublin stage in their coordinating suits, for three beautiful and effortless minutes. Fiumi Di Parole is one of my all-time Eurovision favourites, and was the contest’s last taste of Italy prior to a thirteen-year hiatus.

Jalisse

‘He couldn’t even pick a guitar that matched his suit. Men!’

#2 | Turkey (Dinle by Sebnem Paker & Grup Etnic) – I say this about pretty much any ethno-pop song that crosses my path, but this really is ethno-pop at its finest! It’s irresistible from the second it starts to that mournful moment when Sebnem’s hips stop shaking. It’s almost like a more down-tempo, less OTT version of Düm Tek Tek, with the added advantage of competent vocals (sorry Hadise, but Moscow’s entire dog population was howling the whole time you were rasping away on that massive stage).

#3 | Iceland (Minn Hinsti Dans by Paul Oscar) – One man. One couch. Many suggestive strokes of a leather-clad thigh. A recipe for ESC success those ingredients apparently do not maketh, but they do maketh a fan out of me. The staging of this trance track, one that harked back to the early 90s in the best way possible, was almost on a Euphoria level of intimacy and individuality, though I will admit there is something disturbing about the package of it…Paul’s a man with a penetrating stare that transcends TV cameras, that’s for sure. But apart from turning Eurovision into a fright night, he repped Iceland with integrity, and a rather cracking song that’s hard to forget.

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Paul realises he’s bought so much eyeliner for his stage makeup, he can’t afford the flight back to Reykjavik.

#4 | Ireland (Mysterious Woman by Marc Roberts) – Something a little more forgettable is Ireland’s man-ballad, sent during a period when Ireland was oft to be found sending forgettable man-ballads that would later become indistinguishable from each other. Most of those get a thumbs down from me (when I can remember what they sound like) but there’s something about this one that makes me understand why it slayed on home ground – only failing to out-score Love Shine A Light. It’s easy listening, with a nice chorus and a tale to tell. I would like to know if the mysterious woman in question has ever come forward though. Who knows…maybe these days she goes by the name of Mrs Roberts.

#5 | Denmark (Stemmen I Mit Liv by Kølig Kaj) – Marc may have been spellbound by a woman at an airport, but Kølig wasn’t so conventional. He was in love with a telephone directory operator – or at least with her voice. This entry is so damn catchy, I don’t even care that it’s super repetitive and kind of tacky. It certainly tops the insipid duet Denmark followed it up with in 1999.

#6 | Poland (Ale Jestem by Anna Maria Jopek)
#7 | Cyprus (Mana Mou by Hara & Andreas Constantinou)
#8 | Greece (Horepse by Marianna Zorba)
#9 | Hungary (Miert Kell Hogy Elmenj? by VIP) – All you need to know to understand the method behind this madness is that VIP = a boy band. No matter how bland or copycat a Eurovision song is, if a boy band is performing it, I will LOVE it. This one in particular is “nice” in the sense that it’s missing oomph, which I will readily admit. But Hungarian, one of my most beloved musical languages, saves the day; so much so that I may even have enjoyed this if an act other than a group of guys was peddling it. Gasp!

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VIP lacked the all-important fifth member that would have made them Hungary’s top Backstreet Boys impersonators.

#10 | United Kingdom (Love Shine A Light by Katrina & the Waves)
#11 | Estonia (Keelatud Maa by Maarja-Liis Ilus)
#12 | Croatia (Probudi Me by ENI)
#13 | Netherlands (Niemand Heeft Nog Tijd by Mrs Einstein) – Nearly halfway through the field, and I’m still in six or seven-point territory. This song is naff as heck, and more dated than Lys Assia’s great-great-grandmother…but I think it’s kind of adorable. The energy level, tempo-wise and in the performance from these well-choreographed ladies is at peak point from go to whoa, and you have to admire the commitment in that. All the while picturing the breathless heap they must have collapsed into the second they got offstage, of course.

#14 | France (Sentiments Songes by Fanny)
#15 | Spain (Sin Rencor by Marcos Llunas)
#16 | Portugal (Antes Do Adeus by Celia Lawson) – Of the two nul-pointers 1997 left us with, Portugal’s deserved the humiliating fate the least. Can we all agree on that? No? FINE THEN! BE LIKE THAT! Anyway…creepy sunglass-wearing backing singers aside, there is nothing wrong with this package. In fact, there’s a whole lot that’s right. Girl can sing, and girl sang this ballad commendably well considering she was sucked into a leather dress that would have required a team of muscle men to peel off. Perhaps it’s not the most attention-grabbing number, but ZERO points? For shame, Europe!

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‘The number of fingers I’m holding up is representative of the minimum number of points I hope to get this evening. That’s totally achieveable, right?’

#17 | Sweden (Bara Hon Älskar Mig by Blond)
#18 | Russia (Primadonna by Alla Pugachova)
#19 | Austria (One Step by Bettina Soriat)
#20 | Germany (Zeit by Bianca Shomburg) – My main gripe with this is that it isn’t THIS camptastic number. That’s why whenever I’m watching Bianca screech ‘Zeeeeeeit’ over and over again, I’m muttering ‘it should’ve been Leon’ bitterly to myself. Zeit is okay, but if you’re feeling a little on edge when you hear it, it has the potential to send you round the twist. It’s also quite anonymous in this field of many ballads.

#21 | Slovenia (Zbudi Se by Tanja Ribič)
#22 | Norway (San Francisco by Tor Endresen)
#23 | Bosnia & Herzegovina (Goodbye by Alma Ćardžić)
#24 | Switzerland (Dentro Di Me by Barbara Berta)
#25 | Malta (Let Me Fly by Debbie Scerri) – I’m more than happy to let Debbie fly, as long as it means she’s flying somewhere where I can’t hear her harping her way through this dirge. This is one of a variety of ESC successes (it made it to 9th place) that I just don’t get. It’s lame, it’s dated, the chorus is painfully high-pitched, and her outfit is hideous. Just NO.

 

That’s me done. Now you go! Whether you’re speechless at my ranking Malta last, or you think Iceland’s Minn Hinsti was a total misfire, I want to know. Though I must warn you, if you disagree with me I will feel compelled to fashion a voodoo doll in your likeness, and I won’t hesitate to dress it up in an outfit just as unfortunate as Debbie Scerri’s.

 

Until next time,

nsig

 

SUPER SATURDAY #3 | The end of Eesti Laul + Hungarian and Swedish semis!

Welcome to another Super Saturday, and an altogether action-packed weekend on the Eurovision NF calendar!

You’ll be relieved to discover that since there’s so much going on, I haven’t got time for a long-winded intro on this occasion. I can hear the globe-spanning cheers already. So let’s leap straight in by looking at this weekend’s program of events, then reviewing and predicting a few of the most important ones (according to moi).

TONIGHT: Estonia’s Eesti Laul final; Finland’s UMK semi 3; Hungary’s A Dal semi 2; Lithuania’s Eurovizijos final (the song’s chosen, now it’s artist-picking time); Sweden’s Melodifestivalen semi 3

TOMORROW NIGHT: Latvia’s Supernova final

A little housekeeping to start…

 

Thoughts on the Europe-wide news of the week

  • Armenia: Six members sourced from six different countries. That’ll be Genealogy, singing Don’t Deny for Armenia in Vienna and so far made up of Essaï and Tamar Kaprelian. Let’s hope that the Six4One resemblance stops with the number of vocalists and the number of places they come from. Or at least that Ralph Siegel has NOTHING to do with the song (which is always a relief).
  • Finland: I’m not following UMK very closely this year (any whiff of Satin Circus and I’m all over it, but apart from that…) but I know enough to have been shocked by the elimination of Siru, Otto Ivar AND Eeverest in last weekend’s semi. Still, with the so cray-cray-it’s-incredible Heart of Light in the mix, one of those three had to go. It just turned out that it wasn’t the right time for any of them.
  • Iceland: Waking up on Sunday, I wanted to discover that aptly, SUNDAY would be representing Iceland. That wasn’t to be, but Iceland did choose one of my favourites from the final – Lítil Skref by María Olafsdóttir. Only now it’s Unbroken, and it’s not quite the same. This is a lovely but über-repetitive song, and I think the English lyrics reinforce that repetitiveness. Plus, Icelandic is so magical! I miss it already.
  • Israel: Nadav Gedj triumphed in The Next Star comp on Tuesday. All I know about him is that he’s not The Girl With The Hair Who I Thought Would Win (Avia) and that he’s touted as a Justin Timberlake-type artist. I approve, based on that latter description.
  • Italy: Three attractive Italian men, collectively known as Il Volo, took home the top prize (i.e. a questionable-looking trophy) of the 2015 Sanremo Music Festival, and with it the golden ticket to Eurovision. They appear to have accepted that ticket rather than tossed it in the trash, and on Thursday RAI confirmed that they’ll be packing winning song Grande Amore in their carryon. I professed my love (or should I say ‘amore’?) for this song in my previous post, so I won’t re-hash it here (besides, this ESC Tips article articulates everything I could say and more). Wouldn’t it be funny if Italy won two Eurovision events in a row with a song title featuring the words ‘grande amore’? I know I’d laugh. WITH TOTAL JUBILANCE!
IL-VOLO_Photo_

How could you not want to vote for these faces (or the voices behind them)?

  • Montenegro: Apparently my main man Željko Joksimović is composing Knez’s entry. ZJ can NOT seem to stay away from the ESC, and I am very happy about that. There’s no excuse for Montenegro to not pick up where they left off, qualifying for the first time in 2014.
  • Serbia: We have our first Serbian rep since Malmö, and her name is Bojana Stamenov. Her song is Ceo Svet Je Moj, and it’s…well, I’m going to call it a grower at this point.
  • Sweden: Once again, I royally f%#$ed up my Melfest predictions, not foreseeing at all that Magnus “Schlager Fiend” Carlsson would go direkt til final. Oops. I guess schlager isn’t as stone-cold dead as I had hoped thought.

Now, let’s move on to the key (in my opinion) national final installments of tonight.

 

ESTONIA: It’s Eesti Laul’s last dance…or song…or whatever

Yep, it’s time for what is always an interesting national final to come to a close for another year. After their semi finals, Estonia has been left with a pretty strong group of ten songs to choose from, but to be honest, I’m not sure I trust them to make the right decision (to find out what I think is the “right” decision, keep reading). Last year, with the likes of Traffic and Sandra Nurmsalu in the final, the country came dangerously close to sending something dreadful to Copenhagen by putting the Super Hot Cosmos Blues Band in their superfinal instead, alongside eventual winner Tanja. Yikes.

Granted, there’s nothing among the 2015 ten that would horrify me as much as that did, but I do have my preferences, and it’s those I want to see in that ultimate stage of competition.

Here’s this evening’s running order:

  1. Minu Päike by Luisa Värk
  2. Üle Vesihalli Taeva by Maia Vahtramäe
  3. Goodbye To Yesterday by Elina Born & Stig Rästa
  4. Idiot by Kali Briis Band
  5. Troubles by Robin Juhkental & The Big Bangers
  6. Burning Lights by Daniel Levi
  7. Superlove by Elisa Kolk
  8. Exceptional by The Blurry Lane
  9. Unriddle Me by Elephants From Neptune
  10. This Is Our Choice by Triin Niitoja & John4

Third song out Goodbye To Yesterday is the one to beat, and it will be the shock of the season if it doesn’t at least advance to the superfinal. Before I consider calling it as a foregone-conclusion winner, though, it’s time to reveal whether it’s one of my personal top three.

  • Goodbye To Yesterday UH, YEAH IT IS! The first time I heard this (and I’ve noticed a trend here) I was thinking ‘meh’. But soon enough I was hooked on the 60s mod, somewhat melancholy sound, and now I’m thinking ‘This is genius!’. It tells a tale, it’s retro but very now at the same time, and the duet dynamic – Stig’s role and Elina’s – is perfect. Kind of anti-Common Linnets.
2_5_Elina_Born_Stig_Rasta

‘If you’re going to insist on looking at the back of my head, Stig, can you at least be useful and check for dandruff?’

  • Superlove This is a really pretty song performed to the max, with dry ice. Dry ice always helps, unless you’re asthmatic. I don’t expect Elisa to win, but I would be happy for her if she did.
  • Burning Lights This veers into vanilla territory genre-wise, but I really like the lyrics, and the chorus has good sing-along potential.

This year, there’ll be a three-strong superfinal in Eesti Laul, and it’s hard to predict which trio of entries will end up there. Last year’s Super Hot Cosmos fiasco is one heck of an indication that Estonia and I have differing ideas of what constitutes decent music. But, as always, I’ll give it a go so you guys can laugh at my haplessness later.

TO THE SUPERFINAL: Goodbye To Yesterday, Burning Lights, Unriddle Me

FTW: Goodbye To Yesterday

If I’m wrong (which never happens…I mean, which constantly happens) then it’s not going to be Goodbye To Yesterday so much as Goodbye To Jaz Predicting Anything EVER AGAIN. But seriously, Estonia…you have the chance to compensate, and then some, for Tanja’s DNQ in Copenhagen here. Don’t stuff it up.

 

HUNGARY: A Dal’s second (and stronger) semi

This penultimate episode of A Dal is verging on being a hum-dinger. Translation: the hits are definitely outnumbering the misses.

  1. Úgysem Felejtesz El by Gabi Szűcs
  2. Untold Story by Other Planet
  3. World of Violence by Bogi
  4. A Tükör Előtt by Gergő Oláh
  5. Fire by Ív
  6. Run To You by Gyula Éliás Jnr. feat. Fourtissimo
  7. Ne Engedj El by Kati Wolf
  8. Mesmerize by Passed
  9. That’s How It Goes by Bálint Gájer

With just four places in the final up for grabs, and five songs I’m rather attached to, this is gonna hurt. Best case scenario, I lose one. Most likely scenario? I lose multiple. Do you care? Probably not.

No doubt you have your own favourites that you’re attempting to ESP into the final. But as I can’t hear you screaming them at me, here are mine!

  • World of Violence This is nothing on Bogi’s We All from last year. But there’s something endearing about it, and about her stage persona. Also, I am now pronouncing ‘violence’ as ‘vi-oh-lence’ because it’s a surprisingly fun thing to do. Bogi knows what I’m talking about.
  • Fire This is the kind of thing I’ve enjoyed hearing in A Dal recently. Interesting, authentic alt-pop that doesn’t try too hard to resemble a “typical” ESC entry. If it won, it wouldn’t make a huge impact on the scoreboard, but it would represent Hungary with integrity.
  • Ne Engedj El (Possibly) controversial opinion: I like this better than What About My Dreams. It may just be the power Hungarian as a musical language has over me, but this is a pop ballad that gives me the elusive feels…the feels that lead to hairs all over my body standing to attention. That’s it, I’m joining Team Kati! *speeds over to Facebook and likes her page*
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Kati tries her best not to sabotage her A Dal performance by sneezing.

  • Mesmerize Weird, trippy, and something I’d like to see given a shot on the Eurovision stage. It won’t happen, but a girl can dream, right?

After squeezing into my infamous prediction pants (I had a pizza night this week, so they’re running a little tight), I have come up with my version of A Dal’s results for the night.

TO THE FINAL: Bogi, Ív, Other Planet and Passed

I hate to leave out Miss Wolf, but a) I have this gut feeling she may miss out, and b) if I omit her I won’t be jinxing any chance she does have of qualifying. If you’re tuning into A Dal, let me know who you think has the goods to get through this all-important round on the road to next weekend’s final!

 

SWEDEN: Melodifestivalen heats up with returnees and debutants

It sure is a mixed bag for tonight’s third semi final. Among others, there’s last year’s surprise success Ellen Benediktson, with a whole new look and sound; brand new face Kalle Johansson; the male Sanna Nielsen (i.e. someone who just keeps on trying) Andreas Johnson; and my big hope of the week, Sami singer and Sweden’s Got Talent champ Jon Henrik Fjällgren. Here’s the full lineup:

  1. Insomnia by Ellen Benediktson
  2. För Din Skull by Kalle Johansson
  3. Bring Out The Fire by Andreas Weise
  4. Living To Die by Andreas Johnson
  5. Don’t Stop by Isa
  6. I See You by Kristin Amparo
  7. Jag Är Fri (Manne Liem Frije) by Jon Henrik Fjällgren
Melodifestivalen-semi-final-three-2015

Is Kalle super-tall, or is everyone else just super-short? #importantquestions

Aaaaand here’s my top four (based, as usual, on snippets alone):

  • Insomnia I wasn’t a Songbird lover, so it was always likely I’d be more into Ellen’s reinvented self.
  • För Din Skull Kalle was this year’s Svensktoppen Nästa winner. These winners have a history of going nowhere in Melfest, which makes me sad because I always like them (even when they end up at Melfest with a weaker song). This is no exception.
  • Living To Die I can’t believe I’ve got Andreas down as a favourite, as he’s never impressed me much in his previous attempts. He’s got me intrigued this time. I’ll get back to you on the ‘impressed’ front once I’ve heard the entire song.
  • Jag Är Fri I watched Jon Henrik’s audition for Got Talent as soon as I heard he was competing in Melfest, and fell in love. There’s something spellbinding about what he does when he’s got a microphone shoved in his face, and it sounds like he’s going to keep that magic going tonight.

Now, yet another chance for me to make a fool of myself, woohoo! Three will fall, but four will advance, and damn it, it’s hard to figure out which four that is. This week, I’m cheating a little and using betting odds to guide me. Both ESC Tips and NicerOdds.com have Jon Henrik, Kristin Amparo, Isa and Andreas Johnson as their top four, in that order. I can’t ignore that, but nor am I going to copy it name-for-name. So my tip is as follows:

DIREKT TIL FINAL: Jon Henrik, Kristin
TIL ANDRA CHANSEN: Ellen, Isa

*instantly feels regret at deviating from other people’s predictions*

Oh well. It wouldn’t be right if I got it 100% correct. Or 75%. Or 50%…

 

Well, I have to be off – lots of mundane stuff to do before falling into bed, only to drag myself back out at 3am for Melfest. I hope I will see you there, if only on Twitter. In the meantime, let me know what you think will go down where tonight, or if you’re reading this on Sunday, your verdict on THAT UNBELIEVABLE DEVELOPMENT!

Whichever final you’re watching – especially if you’re attempting to watch five at once – I hope you have fun times, and that your favourite songs succeed. Unless they’re not my favourites. In that case, I hope they fail miserably.

JUST KIDDING.
nsig

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