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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

paul-oscar

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!

cel

‘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*
maxresdefault

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

MY VIENNA WISHLIST | The Saturdays for the UK

I want to talk numbers, folks.

We currently have twelve premiered/chosen artist-and-song combos headed for Eurovision 2015. Twelve and a half, if you think Italy’s Il Volo will take Grande Amore to Vienna but aren’t willing to bet on it (side note: I hope they do, as I LOVE it and want to have a romantic Lady and the Tramp-style spaghetti dinner with it…or with all three group members, whatever’s easiest).

Now, this may come as a shock to you, but none of these 12.5 entries belong to the United Kingdom’s. As is the norm, we’ve heard zilch from the UK as of now and shouldn’t expect to until March. That makes it perfectly appropriate for me to put an idea into the BBC’s mind – if not for this year’s contest, then perhaps the next.

Instead of laughing in my virtual face at that comment, please allow me to indulge in a fantasy of ‘what if?’ as I continue my sporadic series of Vienna Wishlist posts – a.k.a. ramblings re: the names I’m longing to see pop up on screen come May, but probably won’t. Today, it’s the UK’s turn.

Last “episode”, I selected teen pop pinup Robin Packalen for Finland (without success, as the UMK line-up that followed is testament to). This time, for the land of Trafalgar Square, tea and Terry Wogan, I’ve picked…well, it’s pretty clear from the title.

So let’s get this incredibly boring party started, as I say, “Can I PLEASE have…”

satsvw

 

WHO? WHERE? WHAT?

Rochelle Humes + Una Foden + Frankie Bridge + Mollie King + Vanessa White = The Saturdays, est. 2007, hailing from England and Ireland (that’s Una). They’re the Spice Girls of today’s music scene, mostly because there are five of them, the hair colours match, they’re female, and because I said so. Don’t question it, just go with it.

head-shots
The Spice similarities don’t end there – The Saturdays were also manufactured, put together after a nationwide audition callout. Their first gig involved supporting Girls Aloud on tour (whether that’s something to be proud of or embarrassed about is up to you) and during that time, they released their first single ‘If This Is Love’.

The song was co-written by a) Remee, host of JESC 2003 and co-writer of this year’s Danish entry from Anti Social Media, and b) Norway’s Ina Wroldsen, who was partly responsible for Adelén’s ‘Bombo’. EUROVISION CONNECTION ALERT! It went on to chart in the UK Top 10, and was followed by the singles ‘Up’, ‘Issues’ and ‘Work’, all from The Sats’ debut album Chasing Lights. This album also charted within the top 10, giving them the leg up to head off on their own tour in 2008.

Their following two albums Wordshaker (don’t ask, ‘cause I have no idea either) and Headlines! arrived in 2009 and 2010, spawning a further four top 10 singles. On Your Radar (2011) was their last record before the 2012 premiere of their reality TV series Chasing The Saturdays, which detailed their (more or less unsuccessful) quest to break into the American market.

2012 wasn’t a year totally devoid of Sats success though. In December, they released ‘What About Us’ featuring Sean Paul, which went on to become their first – and to date, only – UK #1. But they did it big-style, knocking Justin Timberlake off the top spot. The single even made an appearance in the US Dance charts.

Living For The Weekend (2013), which featured that all-important #1, was their last studio album prior to the release of their greatest hits collection. Finest Selection was released last year, and is unlikely to be where the girls’ story ends.

Here and now in 2015, The Saturdays have achieved some serious stuff: produced five studio albums, two EPs, 18 singles (13 of which have charted in the UK top 10), 20 music videos and a compilation album, to be exact. Not bad for a group that was put together and could so easily have fallen apart.

PS – Here’s another Eurovision-related fact: Una’s no stranger to the ESC, having sung backup for Ireland’s Brian Kennedy in 2006. Methinks it’s time she made a comeback and brought her four gal-pals with her.

lHg4pbTZPM4-0

 

SOUNDS LIKE…

Pop, basically, and with the slew of Scandinavian songwriters who have had a hand in their back catalogue, not completely unfamiliar, un-Melodi Grand Prix (Dansk AND Norsk) type pop. R & B is a clear influence in a number of their tracks, though, and they have a lot of dance songs to their name at this point. You’ll also find retro and electro influences creeping in on the likes of ‘Disco Love’ and ‘Notorious’. They do the occasional ballad – i.e. ‘Issues’ and ‘My Heart Takes Over’, and that’s when you can hear how well they harmonise.

The Sats are a girl band of traditional mould, and they don’t tend to be overly experimental or groundbreaking. In fact, even I’ll admit that some of their songs are questionable. But for every miss, there’s two or three hits, and that’s a pretty good track record. If your main requirement in a good pop song is that it’s catchy, you’re unlikely to be disappointed; but if you like your pop to be unique, there’s something Saturdays for you too. See ‘Gentleman’ for an example…and then just try to get that ‘A gentleman is so 1995’ hook out of your head.

 

DISCOGRAPHY

  • Chasing Lights (2008) feat. ‘If This Is Love’, ‘Up’, ‘Issues’, ‘Work’
  • Wordshaker (2009) feat. ‘Forever Is Over’, ‘Ego’
  • Headlines! (2010) feat. ‘Missing You’, ‘Higher’
  • On Your Radar (2011) feat. ‘Notorious’, ‘All Fired Up’, ‘My Heart Takes Over’
  • Living For The Weekend (2013) feat. ’30 Days’, ‘What About Us?’, ‘Gentleman’, ‘Disco Love’, ‘Not Giving Up’
  • Finest Selection: The Greatest Hits (2014) feat. ‘What Are You Waiting For?’, ‘808’, ‘Walking Through The Desert’

satsdisc

 

 

THE HIT LIST

‘Up’

 
‘Higher’ feat. Flo Rida

 
’30 Days’

 
‘Gentleman’

 
And my must-hear track, ‘Disco Love’

 

WHY EUROVISION?

My answer to this question, posed by myself, is always ‘Why not?’. In my opinion, there are very few acts who’d be unsuitable to compete. Maybe a band that insisted on performing nude (Eurovision’s a family show, remember) or an all-singing, all-dancing German Shepard (animals are fur-bidden). But I’m going off on a tangent now. While lady-bands haven’t got the best track record at Eurovision – think XXL, NonStop and Moje 3 – The Sats are no XXL, NonStop or Moje 3. They can sing live, they never wear lingerie on stage and they wouldn’t be seen dead in those polka-dotted Serbian monstrosities. Few people would.

If given the chance, I think they’d provide the UK with something fun and poppy á la ‘Rockefeller Street’, or a stadium-worthy dance banger like ‘Amazing’ (only they’d automatically be in the final). Or how about an R & B-infused ballad along the lines of the TWiiNS’ ‘I’m Still Alive’? Yes, I’m aware none of those entries had great success, but I am convinced The Sats could learn from the mistakes made by Estonia and Slovakia on those occasions, and nail whichever style of entry they opted for. After all, they’re accustomed to performing on big stages in fancy outfits in front of a ton of people, so they know what does and doesn’t appeal to the masses, aurally and aesthetically.

And a final reason why Eurovision needs these girls? Because I need these girls at Eurovision. It’s all very selfish, this.

 

 
With that in mind, put your suitably sparkly thinking caps on and answer me this: which artist/s would YOU parade in front of the BBC if you had the power to choose on the UK’s behalf? Or, if you just can’t be bothered where Royaume Uni is concerned, toss your ideal choice for any other country my way in the comments. Even if they’ve already chosen, you may as well come up with a replacement in case, say, Trijntje Oosterhuis walks along a little too fast (see what I did there?), stacks it, and ends up in a body cast that renders her unfit for traveling to Vienna.

What? It could happen.

 
I’ll leave you to your brainstorming until the next Super Saturday – February’s third – is upon us. The times are exciting, people – so enjoy them while they last!

 

nsig

 

SUPER SATURDAY #2 | A bit of A Dal, Melfest in Malmö + Iceland takes their pick!

After what was a rather dramatic week in the Eurovisionverse (understatement alert!) it’s time for us to stop wondering what the bloody hell Australia is doing competing in the contest, and start gearing up for Super Saturday Volume II.

If you thought last weekend was action-packed, you may want to sit down and take a few deep, calming breaths (don’t mind me, I’ve just been doing a lot of yoga lately) before I remind you of all the NF happenings of the 14th and 15th.

  • It’s go-time for Eesti Laul’s last semi, and with it hot favourites Elina Born & Stig Rästa. They’ll sail through to the final, no doubt, but who will join them?
  • The Finnish UMK saga (which is thankfully nothing like the Twilight saga) continues as the likes of Eeverest, Opera Skaala and Siru go head-to-head in the second semi
  • Hungary’s A Dal reaches its own semi final stage, with nine of the eighteen heat qualifiers competing for four precious places in the final
  • Iceland rounds up Söngvakeppnin with one of the strongest finals in years
  • Italy’s Sanremo Music Festival concludes by crowning the champ of the Big Artists section – a champ who has the first right of refusal to go to Eurovision (or to refuse to go again, in Nina Zilli’s case)
  • Lithuania chooses their song, but not their artist. Probably. Maybe? Who really knows how the mammoth and very intricate Eurovizijos operates. You need a PhD in national finals to figure it out.
  • Melodifestivalen, hits Malmö for week two of the epic tour around Sweden
  • Plus, tomorrow night, Serbia’s second and final show determines their first representative since wacky-wear specialists Moje 3.

Basically, there’s a LOT you can use as a distraction if you’re single this Valentine’s Day – I know I’m looking forward to my romantic, candlelit rendezvous with Melodifestivalen (although I suspect Melfest is cheating on me with a considerable amount of other people). I dedicate the forthcoming discussions/predictions of a few of the above finals to all of you who are more excited by the selection season than by sexy times with your non-existent significant other. Even if you’re abandoning your existing significant other to tune in to one or more of tonight’s shows, this is for you. We know what out priorities are! High five! *makes plans to marry Eurovision if she’s still single at forty*

Just before I get on to the Hungarian, Icelandic and Swedish bits and pieces, allow me to introduce (because it’s the last chance to do so) my top 10 ranking for ESC 2015. In a matter of hours, we’ll no longer have the nice, even number of ten to play with, so get in while you can and share yours too.

#1. Georgia – Nina’s still on top! Georgia has never been this high in my estimation before, JESC aside.

To be honest, I'm too scared to rank her any lower.

To be honest, I’m too scared to rank her any lower.

#2. Malta – Take away the mess from this hot mess, Malta, and we’ll renegotiate.
#3. Albania – Elhaida will sing in English. Jaz will be sad.
#4. Switzerland – There’s something about this I really like.
#5. Netherlands – It hasn’t worn too thin with me yet.
#6. Belarus
#7. Macedonia
#8. Denmark
#9. Cyprus
#10. France

Oh, France. How I miss your Moustache.

Now, onwards with the enn-effs!

 

A Dal ramps up: it’s semi final time

I’m still doing a happy dance over Kati Wolf’s qualification last weekend, but I suppose I can stop for a few minutes to take a look at the next stage of Hungary’s always intriguing NF. The heats are finito and it’s time for the best of those to fight in a musical battle to the death. Well, it’d be to the death if Katniss Everdeen was competing, anyway. As it stands, we’ll have to settle for a battle that will see just four of the nine competitors nabbing spots in the final. That’s brutal enough!

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The stage is set. Tonight there’ll be bums on those seats.

There are plenty of decent songs on offer this year, but for me the second semi has the stronger bunch. Justification for that will come in seven days (though it really just comes down to personal preference), as right now is the time to focus on what must come before. Which is the first semi. Obviously.

It looks like this (running order TBA at time of posting):

Give Me Your Love by Ádám Szabó
Wars For Nothing by Boggie
Time Is Now by Karmapolis
Homelights by New Level Empire
Kacsi A Világ, De Nagy Világ by Panktastic!
Keep Marching On by Spoon
Woke Up This Way by Timi Antal
Gyémánt by Vera Tóth
Beside You by Zoltán Mujahid

There’s a lot of variety in there, which is nice – some rock-pop, a few ballads, a folksy number, the lead single off One Hungarian Direction’s new album…the list goes on. Here are the four I’d choose to put through to the final if I was the great and powerful Lord Jaz of A Dal (I applied for the job but it’s still pending).

Time Is Now It’s not that distinctive or groundbreaking, but it’s mod and I just like it, okay?
Keep Marching On There is a BOY BAND behind this. Need I say more?
Gyémánt This is a slightly unusual ballad with a mystical atmosphere. Very nice.
Beside You Generic man pop with a rock edge, that’s just catchy enough to win me over.

In terms of who I think WILL advance, I have to go with a half-different foursome, namely Ádám Szabó, Boggie, Karmapolis and Vera.

Ádám can’t be discounted after his heat result, though I don’t hear anything special in his song at this stage. I don’t connect with Wars For Nothing in the way others have, and I assumed it would have been eliminated in the heats, but Boggie clearly has fans, since she won her heat. Karmapolis too, have semi success on their side and are likely to deliver again. And Vera’s ballad is captivating to watch and listen to – who could resist it? Alright, maybe a lot of people. Time will tell. I’ve been so shockingly bad at predicting so far this season (as usual), don’t be surprised if nothing I come out with turns out to be true!

 

Iceland – make your Eurovision decision now!

I have very mixed feelings about Söngvakeppnin’s last dance (i.e. final) for 2015. On one hand, I’m pumped because the line-up is stronger than I’ve ever seen/heard it. On the other, I’m depressed because Iceland has a history of picking what I feel is an unimpressive entry that doesn’t best represent the cool, quirky pop music the country has to offer. There are two songs in the field of seven that I don’t really enjoy, and I can’t help assuming one of those – or the favourite, of course – is going to Vienna.

1. Fyrir Alla by Cadem
2. Fjaðrir by SUNDAY
3. Piltur Og Stúlka by Björn and Friends
4. Lítil Skref by María Ólafsdóttir
5. Í Kvöld by Elín Sif Halldórsdóttir
6. Í Síðasta Skipti by Friðrik Dór
7. Milljón Augnablik by Haukur Heiðar Hauksson

Let’s start with the best of the best, in my opinion: my top three. Fjaðrir, Fyrir Alla and Lítil Skref all qualified from last Saturday’s semi, making me happier than Gianluca Bezzina on laughing gas. Another thing they have in common is that they’ll be switched over to English should any of them win, another thing Iceland like to do on a regular basis. As Icelandic is such a magical language, this move always saddens me a bit, but until I’ve heard the English versions on this occasion – if I do – I’ll refrain from judging.

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It may be Saturday, but SUNDAY get my vote.

Whether performing Fjaðrir or Feathers, SUNDAY is my top choice for the win, but I’d be shocked if they did. Two of the songs will progress to a superfinal towards the end of this evening, and one of those will be the chosen one, and I don’t like the chances of my top two being either of them. María has a better shot.

But, in the hope of not jinxing anything, I’m going to go with one song I dislike and another that’s the bookies’ favourite for my top-two prediction. That’d be Elín (the style of her song is not my thing, and her voice is SO IRRITATING) and Friðrik (the song’s not bad, but would still make for a ‘meh’ selection). And from that super final, I’m siding with the favourite and pegging Friðrik as the champ-to-be. That wouldn’t be a devastating outcome, but he’s close to the bottom of the pack according to my taste and I’d much rather any of the four I’m extra keen on. If you love me, Iceland, you’ll make my wish come true. It IS Valentine’s Day after all, and I did send you a bunch of flowers.

 

Sweden leaves the controversy behind as Melfest takes Malmö

Well…most of the controversy. In a new week and a new city, it’s easy to start afresh, but the Eric Saade-level sting of Molly Pettersson-Hammar apparently falling victim to the Melfest app’s flaws has not been forgotten. Now that people have downloaded the app and actually know how to use it, the odds are as fair for the first few competitors in tonight’s semi as they are for the last. But that may not stop the app from changing Melfest in a multitude of ways, which are detailed here if you’re interested.

But just who will Sweden be thumbing at their phones for this week?

1. Forever Starts Today by Linus Svenning
2. Där Och Då Med Dig by Emelie Irewald
3. Groupie by Samir & Viktor
4. If I Was God for One Day by Neverstore
5. Nonetheless by Marie Bergman & Sanne Salomonsen
6. Möt Mig i Gamla Stan by Magnus Carlsson
7. Don’t Stop Believing by Mariette

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Where’s Emelie Irewald? Hmm…I reckon it was Magnus, in the dining room, with the candlestick.

Last year’s surprising success Linus Svenning is going for less emotion, more inspiration in his second attempt at representing his homeland. He’ll open the show, followed by The Artist Formerly Known As Danny Saucedo’s Girlfriend. Samir & Viktor had an epic hit in Sweden last summer and are hoping to follow it up with a Melfest victory (hope away, boys) while Neverstore fill the obligatory soft-rock gap. Veterans Marie and Sanne, who I have to say come across as a pair of old witches (visually speaking), are peddling a country song that should do alright as long as they don’t have a bubbling cauldron and a broomstick on stage. Finally, we have a sole slice of schlager from the one and only Magnus Carlsson, and something of an ethereal pop number from Idol alumni Mariette. Whew!

Having listened to the rehearsal snippets (again, I’m saving the full songs for the live stream itself, so all my thoughts/predictions are based on notsomuch) these are the four songs that grabbed me:

  • Forever Starts Today There is something very You (yes, Sweden’s host entry of 2013) about this, which is fine by me as I was that song’s biggest fan. I like that Linus is returning with something different, and not just a rehashed version of Bröder.
  • Groupie This ain’t so different. Success was Samir & Viktor’s incredibly infectious summer hit and Groupie is very similar. Do I care? NOPE. Loved them then, love them now.
  • Nonetheless I didn’t expect to like the sound of this, but here we are.
  • Don’t Stop Believing Fortunately this isn’t as cheesy as the title makes it sound. In fact, snippet-wise, there’s no cheese. I’m intrigued and I want to hear more.

After I correctly guessed that Eric Saade would go direkt last week (like that was hard) and that Behrang/Victor would get a second chance, I’m feeling more confident. 50% is still a crappy rate of rightness, but it beats my usual 0%-25%. So, with my infamous prediction pants on, here I go again…

DIREKT TIL FINAL: Linus Svenning, Samir & Viktor
ANDRA CHANSEN: Neverstore, Mariette

Let’s see if I can keep that stellar 50% record alive!

 

By the way, if you think you can out-predict me (it shouldn’t be hard) on Melfest or any other final, put your money where your mouth is and let me know below. Who are you fist-pumping for tonight? Who’s going to stroll to expected triumph or qualification, and who will shock us all by taking the top prize? I want to know what’s rattling around in your brainbox, so let it allllll out.

Enjoy your romantic evenings, everyone. I hope you get some. Some of the results you are hoping for, that is. Don’t forget, you can join me @EurovisionByJaz on Twitter and together we can pick apart the action – so long as it’s in 140 characters or less.
nsig

(UN)FAIR DINKUM MATE? My reaction to Australia’s Eurovision debut

FYI: Prepare yourselves for a nonsensical stream of consciousness. I’m a bit pressed for time at the moment, but as an Australian Eurovision fan of the most neurotic variety, I can’t let this news pass by without letting everything that’s taking up my brain-space out on the loose.

 
On a day when you wake up and discover a shoebox in your fridge (I’m not even kidding, but that’s a story for another time) you start to believe that anything is possible.

That’s why, after hearing the news of Australia’s imminent participation in Eurovision 2015 just before I hauled my butt off to bed last night, thinking it HAD to be a joke…I now believe it’s for real. And I don’t know quite how to feel about it.

My initial reaction was perfectly in keeping with that of someone who has spent the past nine years obsessing over the contest from afar, wishing I could vote just once, and the past five-and-a-half years religiously blogging about what has become my favourite thing on the planet (FRIENDS and pizza aside).

That reaction = super-charged, wide-eyed, slack-jawed excitement. Sadly I couldn’t let out a melodramatic scream of ecstasy for fear of waking up the rest of the household, but I really, really wanted to. Because this is a very big – if very strange – deal.

shock

Conchita knows what I’m talking about.

Until now, the cringe-worthy Down Under skit + saving-grace performance by a foil-clad Jess Mauboy during Copenhagen’s semi two interval is the closest Australia’s come to competing – and fair enough, too. We’re not part of the EBU, nor are we the only non-EBU country to be fans and broadcasters of Eurovision (although we do tend to be more openly nuts about it). These are just two of the reasons why this move by Jon Ola and his cronies is, as the man himself described it, daring.

To return to my first assumption that Australia’s entry couldn’t possibly be legit, I figured we were in for another “participation” like last year’s, which struck me as unnecessary repetition. Actual participation would be plain ridiculous, right? But all bets are off in 2015, the year the ESC celebrates its 60th edition. The rulebook has been tossed out the window and run over by a succession of semi-trailers (most likely the ones carting the Melodifestivalen stage around).

Bending the rules within that book to the point of them breaking up like a piñata and sending bad-tasting confectionery raining down on Europe (if the reactions of the majority of non-Aussie fans are any indication) is a gamble. It’s one the EBU are willing to take, and have apparently been preparing to unleash for some time. I wonder if they expected the barrage of backlash and endless lists of negatives that are now plastered all over the internet.

Allowing Australia to vote (somehow) in both semi finals, despite us getting a free pass to the grand final, didn’t help matters – though the possibility of having some say in the twenty qualifiers AND the winner makes me want to scream again (which I still can’t). Not even the existing Big 5 and host country are permitted to do that, having been restricted to voting in the semi they are randomly allocated. I can’t help thinking the news would have been better received if we’d been placed in the shorter semi final, in spite of the EBU’s wish not to diminish the chances of an EBU member nation qualifying. As it stands, such special treatment in lieu of the 60th contest and Australia’s ever-growing fandom has rubbed many fans up the wrong way. I understand that. But I can’t help feeling a little victimised nonetheless.

Rest assured that this development had nothing to do with me (like you’d think it had. I’m telling you, my recent threatening of Jon Ola with a glitter-bomb bazooka had no impact at all). I never would have thought of campaigning to make this happen, but if someone in a position of power had approached me and said ‘Australia. Eurovision. May 2015. All we need is your permission and we’re good to go’, would I have said ‘As if!’?

No. I would have said ‘HELL YEAH!’, without thinking to delve into the potential consequences. Now, in the aftermath of the news breaking, and after attempting to see the situation from all angles, I find myself sitting on the fence.

As I have mentioned about 500 times throughout this incoherent rambling, I am Australian, and I am fixated on the ESC pretty much 24/7. Therefore it’s impossible for me to swallow the excitement that’s bubbling up inside right now (especially as it would probably just change direction and come out as a very long and very jubilant fart *lowers already low tone of blog with gas reference*). That prospect of having a say and cheering on my own country in a way I’ve only been able to do in the Olympics and Miss Universe (which, while epic in their own way, aren’t Eurovision) is incredible. Up until now, I thought I’d have to wait ‘til my well-timed European jaunt of (hopefully) 2016 to text in a bajillion votes for Sweden (unless I happen to be in Sweden, of course. Then I’ll just nip over the Øresund bridge into Denmark to vote). So in that sense, I couldn’t be happier.

However, I can’t ignore those cons detailed by fans all over Facebook, Twitter, Eurovision websites, and informatively summed up in this article. It will take until May and beyond to see how they all play out. In the meantime, the questions we have to ask ourselves include:

  • What will be the fallout of the Land Down Under taking on and possibly beating Europe at their own game?
  • How many countries of the world will hate us when they are barred from entering the contest in 2016 after this precedent has been set?
  • What is final frontier of EBU wackiness, if this ain’t it?
  • Will everyone fall for eurovision.tv’s annual April Fool’s joke now that such a seemingly hilarious proposition has turned out to be 100% true?
  • Will we be booed off stage like t.A.T.u or given a Conchita-worthy cheer?
  • How many people will fall asleep because the final will be, like, a whole five minutes longer (from what I can see this is a big issue)?
  • And, how many people will confuse ‘Australia’ with ‘Austria’? This is clearly the biggest issue of them all.

Some of these are petty cons (a slightly longer final? Oh, how dreadful!) but others signify that this decision has opened up a great big can of worms, one unlikely to be closed any time soon.

But why dwell on that when you could turn your attention to something much more important: discussing who it could be that will be representing us? Let’s examine this in brief. Two years ago I posted a list of who I’d choose in the fantasy-turned-reality land in which Australia competed. I still reckon some of these acts would be great flag-flyers – Delta Goodrem, Gurrumul, Guy Sebastian, Jess Mauboy and Samantha Jade are at the top of my preference list. They’re a mix of ARIA award winners and reality TV contestants, and it’s one of the latter who’s in the mix be name-dropped by SBS next month.

Our X Factor winner of 2013, Dami Im, could be a coup, as she’s got tons of stage experience and even represented us in the ABU TV Song Festival last year, alongside MaNga. Here’s a taste of what she’s capable of, for those unacquainted with the Dami Army.

As you can see, she also has strong costume game. The girl is unafraid of power shoulders and taking crystal embellishments right down to the tips of her toes. She’s made for Eurovision!

Oh god. I think I have to end this long string of miscellaneous musings right here, because it’s going nowhere unless ‘all over the place’ counts as a direction. I just had some stuff to get out of my system. EBJ will return to regularly scheduled programming from now on. That is until the EBU makes another announcement to let us know that the maximum number of people on stage is being raised to four hundred, and that costume reveals are now mandatory. I’d rather enjoy that second one. #teamcostumerevealforever.

One final note: for those who are very pro-rules and regulations, I get you. But the fact is that this is happening. Australia, like Santa Claus in December, is coming to town. So, to make the joke of the day that exploits Vienna’s slogan of choice, everyone’s going to have to build a bridge and get over it.

 

SUPER SATURDAY #1 | Get ready for DMGP, UMK, Söngvakeppnin and Melfest!

I’ve missed those words. But the missing is over now that ‘super’ and ‘Saturday’ are chilling in the same sentence once again. It’s February 7, and tonight is the first big night of ESC 2015’s national final season. By Sunday morning Jaz time (that’s GMT+8.00 for those who want to get technical) we’ll have an early-ish decision from Denmark, and qualifiers in Finland, Iceland and Sweden. MELODIFESTIVALEN IS HERE!.

In addition to that action in Scandinavia and (slightly) beyond, we’ve got:

• the first semi of Estonia’s Eesti Laul;
• the third heat of Hungary’s A Dal (a ticket to the semis for Kati Wolf, please); and
• what feels like the 798th installment of Lithuania’s Eurovizijos.

I’m choosing my areas of focus, but if you’re spreading yourself across the continent, I wish you the best. And I wish you an enjoyable, or at least tolerable time reading my rundown of some of these NFs, feat. song verdicts and predictions.

Just before I start on that…

 

Poll results: Your favourite Georgian entry EVER is…

…to be revealed in just a second! In case you’ve forgotten, shortly after Georgia selected Warrior as their song for Eurovision no. 60, I celebrated their contest history with a poll so y’all could pick your preference. That poll is now closed, so if you didn’t vote in it, a) TOO BAD MWAHAHA and b) WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

I can tell you now that the top Georgian entry according to your votes is – why, it’s a tie! *goes into Eurovision 1969-style panic mode*

In first place, with 22% apiece, is Visionary Dream by Sopho (2007) AND Shine by Sophia Nizharadze (2010). Sopho power! Check out the full results in my festive pie chart (any excuse to create a festive pie chart) below.

gpc

If you’re about to question the lack of Anri Jokhadze, stop! The poor guy didn’t receive any votes. I personally am shocked to my very core by this travesty.

Not.

I won’t embarrass Anri any further by lingering on the subject. It’s time we moved on to discussing tonight’s NF schedule. Let the snide remarks, gushy compliments and questionable predictions begin!

 

The hosts of 2014 pass the torch, picking their entry through DMGP

Dansk-Melodi-Grand-Prix-2015

Ah, DMGP…the national final in which I usually end up pining for the runner-up because I much prefer it to the winner. FYI, it’s been two years and I’m STILL not over Emmelie de Forest beating Mohamed Ali and his amazing Unbreakable (can you tell Only Teardrops isn’t my favourite Eurovision winner of recent times?) so I’m hoping tonight’s edition of the show will have me crying tears of joy rather than sadness.

With a line-up this derivative, though, there’s not that much to be crying or jumping for joy about.

  1. Love Me Love Me by Sara Sukurani
  2. Mi Amore by Tina & René
  3. Når Veje Krydses by Marcel & Soulman Group
  4. Hotel A by Cecilie Alexandra
  5. Love Is Love by Andy Roda
  6. Tæt På Mine Drømme by Julie Bjerre
  7. The Way You Are by Anti Social Media
  8. Suitcase by Anne Gadegaard
  9. Manjana by Babou
  10. Summer Without You by World of Girls

I’m sure you’re all pretty familiar with the lowdown on Denmark’s selected ten: you’ve got the duo who think we’ve all forgotten about In A Moment Like This (but we haven’t); not one but two of Basim’s backing singers from last year (that’s Marcel and Andy); JESC alum Anne Gadegaard, all grown up; and the Danish version of GRL. It’s a banquet of variety, sure, but there really isn’t anything on offer we haven’t tasted before. I’m mainly referring to that shameless rip-off Mi Amore, which is not only being rehashed by the same country who sent it in the past, but just five years later.

Still, I have my favourites, and here’s a quick top 5 to acknowledge those:

#1. Manjana I’m just a sucker for this kind of muzak, folks. Accept it, and we’ll get along fine. Manjana is uplifting, damn catchy and makes me want to dance. It could be the antidote to my Unbreakable anguish if it wins.

#2. Tæt På Mine Drømme Here’s the obligatory Danish-language pop that I love but that never goes anywhere (a.k.a. this year’s Vi Finder Hjem, which was penned by Basim and performed in DMGP ’14 by Emilie Moldow). This song = a slick, happy hybrid of 80s and mod-pop that I enjoy a lot.

#3. Summer Without You I do love a girl band, and I’d be happy for this one to win (so long as they’re good live). It’ll be almost summertime in Europe come ESC time, and this would capture the mood and inject some energy into what is, so far, a predominantly down-tempo contest.

#4. Suitcase I can’t help barracking for a JESC graduate, but this song is genuinely growing on me. It’s a sweet sing-along number that seems like the kind of thing Denmark will vote for, based on what’s succeeded in recent DMGP years. If Anne wins, she, Anita and Michele can swap serious stories in Vienna. The bitching! The backstabbing! Scandalous JESC!

#5. Mi Amore Don’t judge me. I’m judging myself. I hate the fact that, as blatantly similar to In A Moment… as this is, and as much as I detest that entry, I still like this. For me, it’s a more enjoyable version of Chanee & N’evergreen’s soppy ballad, albeit just as clinical and dated.

I’ll be happy for any of the above songs to win this evening, and I think I can come to terms with any other champ except Anti Social Media (yawnfest) but who do I reckon is GOING to win? I refuse to make an outright prediction, but I’m giving the ‘Most Likely’ award to Tina & René, Cecilie or World of Girls. Or maybe Anne. I DON’T KNOW, OKAY?!?

From the host country of 2014, let’s fly over to Finland…

 

Starting at the Finnish: Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu begins!

Confession: I’ve never actually followed the Finnish final in detail from beginning to end. I always leave a few NFs to unfold without my supervision (I love the element of surprise) and UMK is often one of them.

I do look back on it at the end of the season and pick out a few gems, which I’ll definitely be doing this year. Only…I’ve already found one. And I think it might be THE one, if you know what I mean. It’s one of the entries competing in tonight’s first semi:

  1. Loveshine by Hans On The Bass
  2. Äänen Kantamattomiin by Vilikasper Kanth
  3. No Voy A Llorar Por Ti by El Misionario
  4. Aina Mun Pitää by Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät
  5. Sydän Ei Nuku by Pihka ja Myrsky
  6. Crossroads by Satin Circus

I couldn’t resist listening to a recap of all the UMK-ers, so I’m vaguely familiar with them all, but someone singled out Satin Circus and Crossroads (Nick, I’m talking about you!) and I am now a little obsessed.

Will we be seeing these pretty faces in Vienna? I'm hoping so.

Will we be seeing these pretty faces in Vienna? I hope so.

I’ve been through this band’s brief back catalogue, and whilst their 2014 single Expectations is slightly higher in my esteem (gosh dayum, it’s catchy) Crossroads is the one song Finland must pick for Eurovision, if they know what’s good for them. Which is me not being totes mad. Right now, of course, its challenge is to progress from the semi, which I think it will do comfortably. At least, that’s all I want from the Finns this week!

 

Second semi final shenanigans for Iceland’s Söngvakeppnin

Iceland’s NF is another one I don’t follow with a magnifying glass in hand, but again, I have recapped this year’s contestants and listened to the songs that piqued my interest. I’ve got to say ‘BRAVO!’ to the land of Björk. The quality of Söngvakeppnin is mighty high on this occasion, with the island spoilt for choice.

They have already sent three acts packing – one of whom was an early favourite – and the same thing will happen in a matter of hours in semi 2. I have four favourites of my own this time, so I’m going to lose at least one. Sadface.

  1. Milljón Augnablik by Haukur Heiðar Hauksson
  2. Lítil Skref by María Ólafsdóttir
  3. Fjaðrir by SUNDAY
  4. Aldrei of Seint by Regína Ósk
  5. Brotið Gler by Bjarni Lárus Hall
  6. Fyrir Alla by Cadem

Again, they’re all decent songs. But I’m most fond of Lítil Skref, Fjaðrir, Andrei of Seint and Fyrir Alla. Lítil Skref is a nice, uplifting (sorry for the overuse of that word in today’s post) pop ballad reminiscent of Yohanna’s stuff. Fjaðrir is minimalist and cutting edge and I LOVE it, but I don’t have high hopes of it qualifying. Regina is as on-point as ever with the atmospheric Aldrei of Seint. And Fyrir Alla is one of those dance tracks that I have a weakness for. On the plus side, one of them has to go through, and I think I want it to be Aldrei of Seint, because Regina is perfection.

My guess as to the 50% who’ll progress? Haukur, Reguina and Bjarni. But I say good luck (you can Google Translate that into Icelandic if you want) to everyone, as I leave Söngvakeppnin behind in favour of something that excites me just a teensy bit more.

 

Saving the best for last…IT’S #MELFEST TIME!

*pants with uncontrollable excitement*

melodifestivalen-2015

That’s right, my fellow Melfest freaks. The greatest show on Earth (Eurovision itself excluded) has shimmied into Göteborg and is ready to roll. For the first time, I’m watching the semis live – normally I don’t get up at 3am for anything less than the final – and I can’t wait to experience it with you guys, as it happens. Catch up with me on Twitter @EurovisionByJaz and we can live tweet until our thumbs fall off.

This is what this first semi’s line-up looks like:

  1. I’ll Be Fine by Molly Pettersson Hammar
  2. Pappa by Daniel Gildenlöw
  3. One By One by Rickard Söderberg & Elize Ryd
  4. Hello Hi by Dolly Style
  5. Det Rår Vi Inte För by Behrang Miri feat. Victor Crone
  6. Can’t Hurt Me Now by Jessica Andersson
  7. Sting by Eric Saade
deltavling1

DISCLAIMER: Not all of these artists are sporting their natural hair. That’s right – Eric Saade wears a wig. You heard it here first.

We have seven songs per semi instead of eight for 2015, and I have mixed feelings about this. What I don’t have mixed feelings about is how awesome the show’s going to be, based on the rehearsal snippets that we’ve all seen and heard since their release on Thursday. A lot of fans are disappointed with what they heard, but I’m pumped – Eric Saade’s dodgy vocals aside.

Granted, this pumped-ness is based on snippets only, and will remain that way as I’ve decided to wait until the show itself to hear the full songs, but songs 1 through 7 (mostly) get my tick of approval for now. Here’s my top 4:

  • I’ll Be Fine If I were Austin Powers I would say this was groovy, baby. But I’m not, so I’m just going to say I like the sound of it. Retro, big band influences + Molly’s banging voice = a gold star.
  • One By One No, his opera voice doesn’t mesh that well with hers, but this song grabbed my attention. I’m intrigued.
  • Hello Hi I don’t want to like this, but it seems to marry J-pop and Scandipop in a way that appeals to the cheesy pop fan in me (which is about 90% of me, to be honest).
  • Det Rår Vi Inte För Behrang’s no one-trick pony, as this is no Jalla Dansa Sawa. That was boss, and as a fan of hip-hop duets, I think I’m going to appreciate his comeback track.

Now, shall we put our prediction pants on? With one less song in the running, it’s probably easier to decide which three won’t advance to the final or to the second chance round. Having considered this, these are my thoughts.

DIREKT TIL FRIENDS ARENA (I.E. THE FINAL): I’ll Be Fine and Sting
TO ANDRA CHANSEN: Det Rår Vi Inte För and Can’t Hurt Me Now

I have been spectacularly wrong re: Melfest predictions lately, so I’m aiming for at least one success this year. Do you think I’ve got it already, or am I way off? Let me know who’s going where, in your opinion, down below. That goes for outside of Sweden, too.

 

 
Well, I’d better get to bed if I want a shot at some shut-eye before the perfectly normal 3am wake-up call. It’s not like I’ll be dozing off in a hurry afterwards, what with the glitter-encrusted excitement coursing through my veins and all. If you’re settling in for this evening’s schedule of events, I shall see you then (I won’t literally be SEEING you, but you know what I mean). If not, are you crazy? NF season is the best season out, spring, summer, autumn and winter included. Get amongst it, people.

 

Until next time (when we discuss the aftermath of the action)…

nsig

 

Retro Rankings | Melodifestivalen 2014

It’s February, and that means national final season is about to shift into overdrive. THAT means those of us in unfortunate timezones will be having many late nights/early mornings in the weeks to come, while others tune into Dansk MGP or A Dal or *insert NF of choice here* over their cereal bowls. Then there’s those lucky people who get to experience NF season at a totally respectable prime-time, post-dinner slot on TV. I hate those people.

No matter the situation or dress code (2am in mismatched pajamas WOOHOO!) there are fun times ahead, and the funnest (yes, I am aware that’s not a word) time of all, in my inarguably correct opinion, is coming up this Saturday, live from Sweden. Well, more specifically, Göteborg, Sweden.

Yes, that’s right…Melodifestivalen is (almost) upon us again! Having graduated uni (for the second and final time) on the weekend, with the aftermath being a frighteningly unknowable future, Melfest is the bright spot on my horizon at the moment. I cannot wait to watch Her Royal Amazingness Sanna Nielsen and That Guy Who’s Her Co-Host commandeer the festivities. During the first semi final, said festivities will include the comeback of a Mr. Eric Saade, who’s confident he can Sting his competition into submission and represent Sweden in Eurovision once again.

The show is going to be epic, no doubt, and I thought I’d ring it in by revisiting last year’s also-fabulous edition. This post is a timely one, but it doubles as good filler as we wait until we can do a top 10 ranking of the Eurovision 2015 entries (the thought of doing a top 9 irritates me). It’s one of my famed (AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA) Retro Rankings, but rather than using a past Eurovision as the basis, I’m taking Melodifestivalen 2014 and turning it into a personal top 32. Whether you’ve forgotten what last year’s comp had to offer or you’re listening to the album right now and are 110% ready to fight me if I don’t have Ace Wilder on top (which I don’t, sorrynotsorry) I hope you enjoy the following. Give me your top 32, top 10 or just your favourites of Melfest ’14 in the comments. Please?

Before we begin, a brief, alphabetised recap of the comp:

 

And now…

 

#1 | Hela Natten by Josef Johansson – I fell in love with this on the first listen, and I pretty much haven’t stopped listening to it since. It didn’t even get to Andra Chansen, but the soaring, stadium-anthem quality and weighty lyrics make for a winner by Jaz standards. I’ve also become über-attached to Josef himself over the past twelve months, as he’s proved to be a very versatile artist. Check out his post-Melfest singles Blickar Kan Mörda and Tysta Leken (a cover version that I think outdoes the original) for proof.

Man-bun? Check. Ridiculous jumper? Check. Pleather kilt? Check. Outfit I still want to copy? CHECK.

Man-bun? Check. Ridiculous jumper? Check. Pleather kilt? Check. Outfit I still want to copy? CHECK.

#2 | Undo by Sanna Nielsen – Obviously. There will never be a more golden moment for me than Sanna’s marginal win in last year’s comp, after six previous attempts. I’ve always been of the opinion that Undo is her best Melfest entry, and its success at Eurovision is something of a testament to that. Her voice is both pure and powerful, giving the ballad an air of vulnerability and defiance at the same time. I sing it in the car, the shower, the toile-er, I mean, the kitchen…everywhere, basically. Sanna gave me a sad that I actually don’t want to undo.

#3 | Bedroom by Alvaro Estrella – Man, Sweden let some gems slip through their texting-and-dialling fingers in 2014! In an NF of such high quality though, it’s virtually impossible to send every great song to the final. Some would argue that Bedroom is hardly one of those greats, but filthy lyrics and all, I absolutely LOVE it. So what if you wouldn’t want it as your wedding song for fear of offending your great aunt Mildred (and for many other reasons)? It’s an irresistible slice of dance-pop in the vein of Moves Like Jagger, and I reckon it could easily fill any floor with drunk, shoeless guests. You know, if that’s what you were after.

'I must warn you, my actual bedroom doesn't have strobe lights...'

‘I should warn you, my actual bedroom doesn’t have strobe lights…’

#4 | Echo by Outtrigger – For the second time, Melfest made me love screamy rock, which is something I detest as a rule. Dead By April’s Mystery was my musical crush of 2012, and Echo became its 2014 counterpart. I don’t know exactly why I like this so much, but a lot of the appeal lies in the chorus that was made for headbanging. This can be awkward when you’re hearing the song in the middle of a supermarket as opposed to a mosh pit, but rock music ain’t about avoiding strange looks in public.

#5 | Busy Doin’ Nothin’ by Ace Wilder – I’ll admit, this would have been the more cutting-edge, daring choice for Sweden to send to Copenhagen. Vocally, it would have been less impressive than Undo, but when a song’s this catchy, I for one am too busy fist-pumping and trying not to fall to my death as I dance atop the nearest piece of furniture to pay much attention to the performer’s vocal chops.

Ace at the point of realisation: she wasn't busy doin' nothin'.

‘Wait, what? What do you mean I’m NOT busy doin’ nothin’?’

#6 | Around The World by Dr. Alban & Jessica Folcker
#7 | Survivor by Helena Paparizou
#8 | Red by EKO – If the idea of a lite, 80s synth version of Margaret Berger’s I Feed You My Love is up your alley, then you probably enjoyed this as much as I did. EKO won their way into Melfest via the pre-NF contest for new talent, and while they continued the tradition of those winners failing to qualify from their semi final, they found a fan in me with Red.

#9 | Efter Solsken by Panetoz
#10 | Yes We Can by Oscar Zia – Once upon a time I was obsessed with High School Musical, and as this song has ‘Disney Original Movie soundtrack’ written all over it, I can’t help giving it the thumbs up. Less Disney is the scandalous mention of dancing in underwear and letting the people stare, which sounds a bit like a strip club-type situation. But that’s not a bad thing, since it stops things from getting too sickly sweet.

#11 | Love Trigger by J.E.M
#12 | Natural by Anton Ewald
#13 | Bröder by Linus Svenning – Linus is back this year and singing in English, but I doubt his song will carry as much meaning and emotion as Bröder, which gets me right in the feels every time. As Yoda would most likely say if he were a Melfest fan, lovely song this is.

#14 | Hollow by Janet Leon
#15 | Aleo by Mahan Moin
#16 | Blame It On The Disco by Alcazar – Yes, it was Stay The Night with a different title, but that song did fairly well for them in Melfest, and this one did even better. I guess it’s true that if something isn’t broken, don’t bother to fix it. Here we have classic Alcazar, i.e. cheesy disco-pop with an obligatory key change (or five hundred) and it’s one heck of a guilty pleasure.

Alcazar's motto: peace, love, and a s%#tload of sequins.

The Alcazar motto: peace, love, and a s%#tload of sequins.

#17 | När Änglarna Går Hem by Martin Stenmarck
#18 | Ta Mig by Linda Bengtzing
#19 | Set Yourself Free by Little Great Things
#20 | All We Are by State of Drama – This band brought the standard of the 2013 comp up a little with Falling, but in a stronger year with a weaker song, they couldn’t come back with a bang. All We Are is competent, but pretty bland.

#21 | Burning Alive by Shirley Clamp
#22 | I Am Somebody by Pink Pistols
#23 | Glow by Manda
#24 | Casanova by Elisa Lindström – I really disliked this the first time I heard it, and I’m not about to gush over it now. However, I will compliment how happy, cute and energetic it is. It’s like a quokka in song form.

Any excuse to use a picture of a quokka will do, so here's one I prepared earlier.

Any excuse to use a picture of a quokka will do, so here’s one I prepared earlier.

#25 | To The End by YOHIO
#26 | Fight Me If You Dare by IDA
#27 | Songbird by Ellen Benediktson – This is not my preferred style of music at all, and apparently it wasn’t Ellen’s either since she’s returning with something different and more ‘her’. For me, this is a case of knowing the song is well-written and generally good, but not being able to connect with it.

#28 | En Enkel Sång by CajsaStina Åkerström
#29 | Raise Your Hands by Ammotrack
#30 | En Himmelsk Sång by Ellinore Holmer
#31 | Bygdens Son by Sylvester Schlegel
#32 | Hallelujah by The Refreshments – Can somebody please explain to me Sweden’s preoccupation with rockabilly? Perhaps it’s just SVT’s quest for variety, but every year a track like this sneaks into the lineup and leaves me scratching my head, and more often than not, hitting the Mute button.

 
Well, that’s that, and now I’ve shown you mine, you’re welcome to show me yours! If you’re up for it, also let me know who you’ll be cheering for in Melodifestivalen’s first semi on Saturday night. I’m Team Saade with a little Behrang Miri on the side, but who knows which artists will produce gems that I’ll be fawning over in a year.

 

Until next time…

nsig

 

Time-Warp Thursday | Switzerland’s nul-point nightmare

Good morning/afternoon/evening/whatever, peeps! Welcome to what would be a Time-Warp Tuesday for regular people, but at the hands of Jaz has turned into a Time-Warp Thursday, as I am yet to stick to my New Year’s resolution of getting my s%#t together. Today’s trip back in Eurovision time will land us in the 1990s, when everything was awesome, no arguments. OR WAS IT? Perhaps not, for a certain Swiss miss who won the right to represent her country amidst the euphoria (*insert the Loreen reference of your choice here*) of newfound fame, only to crash and burn at the hands of the press and a universally unimpressed continent. This is a story that I feel compelled to rehash after reading Nul Points by Tim Moore for the billionth time recently, and I apologise in advance if it gets a little heavy and/or rant-like. I’m not just about the fluff, guys!

 

Birmingham 1998 | Switzerland | Lass’ Ihn by Gunvor Guggisberg

If you were under the impression that Dana International was the most controversial competitor of 1998, I’m here to tell you that…well, yeah, you’re right. But when it comes to who was the most scandalous, Switzerland’s Gunvor wins hands-down – though I doubt that’d be any consolation of sorts after her failure to squeeze a single point out of any of the twenty-four countries eligible to vote for her.

Hers was a classic rags-to-riches tale (only with a few minor twists and a lot more tap dancing that Cinderella could ever have managed in those glass slippers). Gunvor came from humble beginnings to become a seven-time Swiss tap-dance champion, before spending her teenage years working to help support her newly-single mother and younger sister. Secretary duties gave way to stardom when she won not one, but two TV talent shows, and being snapped up to compete in Switzerland’s ’98 national final soon followed. It was this sudden buzz about a Miss Guggisberg that attracted media interest – most of all from a tabloid that would only serve to big her up, wait until she felt the effects of fame, and then tear her down at the most inopportune moment.

From that point, there was more drama in Gunvor’s life than in a soap opera and more diva-like behaviour than Dana International could dream of demonstrating. I’ll give you the short version: everyone starts gushing over hot new singer; singer is lavished with attention by the press who label her ‘the new Céline Dion’; singer gets big head and begins taking advantage of her status via spending sprees and serious attitude…and then, the revelations begin. A fortnight before the Birmingham contest took place, celebrity mag Blick made a swift turnaround on the good publicity they’d given Gunvor leading up to May 1998, dropping bombshells left, right and centre re: her frivolous financial habits and participation in saucy photo shoots. Anyone with vocal chords then proceeded to pop up and make a choice remark about the girl who had so recently been Switzerland’s sweetheart. But things were about to get worse.

On the morning of the ESC final, Blick laid all of their sordid cards on the table, exposing Gunvor’s alleged period as a provider of “services” in a fancy brothel. You can argue that she got what she deserved – someone who demanded expensive shoes and clothes on the regular only to return them in less-than-perfect condition (among a host of other misdeeds, if Blick was to be believed) could do with being taken down a peg. But whether that’s your point of view or not, you have to admit it took guts for Gunvor to even show her face on stage that night. Not only did she follow through, but she did it by channeling some of that attitude that gave her a bad rep off stage, but gave her time on stage a bit of grunt as she urged a friend to ‘let him go at last’ – ‘him’ being a sleazy womaniser. There’s very little in her face that says ‘I’m not enjoying this a whole lot, but I’m bloody well going to do it anyway’, which is what you’d expect once you know what went down only hours before.

Considering most of her awful press was contained within Switzerland, or drowned out by Dana’s death threats, Gunvor probably didn’t step out on stage thinking she’d come away with no more points than she’d started with. Really, Blick couldn’t be blamed for her most bottom of bottom-scoreboard finishes. The tabloid may have crushed her confidence and sent her post-ESC career into the toilet (where derisive chat-show hosts, tearful interviews and bankruptcy awaited) but to the unsuspecting, non-Swiss voters, it was the package of song and performance that somehow had nobody dialing her number.

Looking at a lot of the infamous zero-pointers, it’s puzzling as to why they ended up with nothing. Most of the time, even the most horrific or bland entries scrounge up something. In Gunvor’s case, I can’t be alone (although I know music is subjective) in thinking that, in a contest of multiple boring ballads, hers was not even close to being the worst entry on offer. Hungary’s A Holnap Már Nem Lesz Szomorú? Worse. Slovakia’s Modlitba? Worse. Belgium’s Dis Oui? Much worse – and yet that assault on Europe’s ears came 6th with 122 points (if you feel the way I do about it, you’ll be just as shocked). Here’s a recap of 1998 if you want a refresher.

Lass’ Ihn is a decent song. Sure, there’s cons – i.e. it’s veering into vanilla territory, and features a violin solo that doesn’t totally belong – but it’s catchy and not lacking in power. It was well performed too, against the odds, with just a few sound issues taking away some shine. I don’t think it should have been with the likes of the Netherlands, UK and Malta in fighting for the win against Israel, or anything; it’s just a shame that the negligible phone-ins for Switzerland (I assume at least one person in Europe voted for them) didn’t translate into a single point. One tiny mark of appreciation that may have given someone who desperately needed a shred of dignity to hang onto precisely that.

For me, this entry is mid-table, even taking into account the questionable dress Gunvor was wearing. After all, there were many unfortunate fashion choices on show in Birmingham, even by 1998 standards: take the mucus-coloured evening gown/business suit that didn’t stop Chiara from taking Malta to third place, for example. The reality of Eurovision is that not every song can succeed…and one of them must come last. But losing with nul points is an infrequent phenomenon that’s often hard to explain. Switzerland’s zero in the 2004 semi-final is somewhat understandable, but that same fate six years earlier in the final is a bit of a mystery to me.

I can’t help feeling sorry for Gunvor, who may have left most of the scandals behind today and has recently-released music to her name, but who will likely never forget her very public rise to fame and fall from grace. I wonder if she’s recovered enough to tune in to the contest these days, or even to watch her performance again and wonder, Linda Martin-style, ‘Why me?’.

 
Love or hate ‘Lass’ Ihn’ or have an explanation for the nul points? Let me know below.

 

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