VIENNESE VERDICTS | The EBJ Jury Reviews (Part 5)

There are just three weeks until the final of Eurovision 2015, people. THREE WEEKS! We do, of course, have the equally important/exciting semi finals to look forward to prior to that, which doesn’t give me much time to devise a detailed schedule and allocation chart that dictates the destinations of my precious votes. I’d better get on that ASAP.

With this rapidly diminishing amount of pre-ESC days, I don’t have any time to waste when it comes to churning out the rest of the Viennese Verdicts. The past few days have been momentous ones, what with Loïc Nottet’s message for EBJ (check it out, if you haven’t yet – it’s short but sweet) and the royal baby birth and stuff, but none of that compares to the momentousness of this fifth installment of reviews. This time (Lithuanian pun 100% intended) it’s the turn of Malta, Georgia, Albania, Lithuania and Spain to be judged by a few familiar faces.

 

TODAY’S EBJ JURY

vv1Rory Gannon: You met Ireland’s own Rory (if you hadn’t already met him) waaaaay back in Part 1. He’s the beauty and brains behind a Eurovision blog that is just as fabulous as he is – and I say that of my own volition, not because he paid me to. You can find said blog ESC Views here, and/or like the ESC Views Facebook page here.

Matt Kelly: Aussie Matt, hailing from Adelaide (or Radelaide, as it’s often known) also laid his Eurovision-branded cards on the table in Part 1. He’s one of the stars of YouTube’s escTMI review show, so he’s well-schooled in doling out compliments and criticisms to Eurovision participants. You can subscribe to escTMI’s YouTube channel here and/or like their Facebook page here.

Jasmin Bear: As they say, I’m here all week…if by ‘week’, one means FOR THE REST OF ETERNITY, MWAHAHAHAHA!!! Even though my links are blatantly promoted over in the sidebar, I have no qualms about promoting them even more blatantly here. So, that being said, feel free to like the EBJ Facebook page here, follow me on Twitter here, and/or follow me on Instagram here.

 

The three of us are ready to marvel over and moan about what Amber, Nina, Elhaida, Vaidas & Monika and Edurne are taking to the Austrian capital. Are you?

 

 

MALTA

Warrior by Amber

Malta

Rory: Umm…Malta? We just don’t really get on, do we? I wanna break up. It’s not you, it’s me…actually no, it is you. I’m sorry, but I am not a fan of your song. Can anyone actually understand what Amber sings in the live version of Warrior? If you can’t be understood, what’s the point in even sending the song? At least they’ve worked on the pronunciation aspect of it – the fact that she kept calling the past ‘the pest’ really did p**s me off! 4 points.

Matt: The original Warrior, Amber’s has all the elements of a modern Eurovision song – violins, big drums, powerful vocals, and a positive message of hope. I personally feel that this song is old hat now, as it was one of the first songs chosen all the way back in November. But I’m sure Amber will bring it to life again in Vienna. 10 points.

Jaz: Amber was approximately two attempts at representing Malta away from becoming the Sanna Nielsen of the island (though that’s the situation for most Maltese artists, let’s face it) when she finally won MESC last year. When she steps onto the Stadthalle stage in a few weeks’ time, she’ll be in the unusual position of having performed on the Junior and adult Eurovision stages within six months – not because she’s in the same boat as San Marino’s Anita Simoncini, but because Malta understandably repurposed the JESC stage for their national final use. None of this has anything to do with Amber’s Warrior, of course – I just like going off on tangents. I’m constantly changing my mind when it comes to my personal winner of the Warrior face-off, as I like both. I have to say, though, Malta has impressed me with their choice of representative for the third year in row. Granted, MESC 2014 wasn’t an NF to end all NFs, but Amber stood out to me from my first listen of the line-up. There’s something about the style of Warrior that I get a kick out of, even though it isn’t the most finely-crafted, cohesive power ballad I’ve ever heard. And speaking of power – Amber has it in spades when she launches into that big chorus. She just needs to ensure she’s in key to make it explosive in a good way. I did actually prefer the song before it was reworked, and I’m still irritated by the ‘con-quer-er-errrr’ bit (it almost puts ‘uh-uh-uh-un-dooooooo’ to shame) but that’s the majority of what I’d pick on re: Malta 2015. There are plenty of songs that are superior, but I like this enough to give it 8 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 7.33

 

 

GEORGIA

Warrior by Nina Sublatti

Georgia

Rory: So I told you that I wasn’t a fan of Malta, but to be honest, Georgia wins the Warrior battle hands-down. I mean, the song beforehand was strong, but it’s really packing a punch now. Seeing as they’ll be closing the first semi, I see no reason why Nina won’t do incredibly well. It’s crazy, addictive, hypnotic…if only Georgia (plus Belgium….and the Netherlands) was in the second semi!! 10 points.

Matt: The other Warrior, Nina’s song is the ESL emo version. I wanted to like it – it’s dark and unusual. But the lyrics are so bad. Did she use Google Translate to write them? I can’t sing along to a chorus that has ‘still stucked in my mind’ as one of its lines. And I still don’t know what ‘oximated’ means, but it’s good to know that Nina’s ‘not a shabby’. It’s hard to believe this song was reworked by the Eurovision legend Thomas G:son. Surely he should’ve fixed the mistakes…but no, this song is going to Vienna with all of the original, bad lines. I feel like it’s a missed opportunity, and that’s just frustrating. 5 points.

Jaz: This was the standout song in the Georgian final, and it’s also the best song Georgia has sent to Eurovision in a long time. That doesn’t mean I’m about to lavish it with douze points (spoiler alert: I’m not) but it does mean I find a lot of positives in it. The lyrics, in terms of that little thing called ‘making sense’, are not one of those positives (like Matt, I am appalled by the use of ‘stucked’…subtract two letters, and it would be fine) but honestly, I’d rather listen to interesting lyrics like these than lame, cheesy ones that rhyme ‘love’ with ‘above’ or ‘dove’, or even worse, ‘love’. This song is edgy and hip (no matter how uncool my use of ‘hip’ might make it) and rather alternative by Eurovision standards. There are a few songs in that vein competing in Vienna – Belgium, Latvia, etc – and I’m digging them all. When it comes to originality, this Warrior has the battle in the bag, and the juries should reward it for that at the least. Nina’s an intense performer for a nineteen-year-old, which I blame on the heavy makeup that makes her look at least twenty-five. Her experience participating in and winning Georgian Idol will be beneficial as she rides the Eurovision merry-go-round – probably not all the way to the top, but hopefully to the upper mid-table of the final scoreboard. PS – For everyone still wondering, ‘oximated’ means ‘reaction with, or conversion into an oxime.’ So I guess we’ll continue to wonder, then. 8 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 7.67

 

 

ALBANIA

I’m Alive by Elhaida Dani

Albania

Rory: Ohhhhhh Albania, you always have the best sense. Well, most of the time (we still have to talk about Rona’s hair). I am incredibly happy that they actually ditched Diell in favour of I’m Alive. This song actually shows off Elhaida’s versatile vocal range – and my god, it is an UP-TEMPO SONG! This calls for a celebratory Verka Serduchka dance around the stage. Well done, Albania. You’ve learned from your mistakes! 8 points.

Matt: I’m Alive is a really contemporary ballad, and it’s a million light years away from the awful, outdated song Elhaida was originally going to sing. Talk about dodging a bullet. I could imagine Beyoncé or the like singing this, and it doing well on mainstream radio. A seasoned talent show veteran, Elhaida will deliver amazing vocals on stage, and has the stage presence that will sell the song to the audience. I think this will do well. 8 points.

Jaz: So I guess I’m alone in preferring Diell, then (I got the raw deal in Albania’s surprise song exchange). The composers of Elhaida’s Festivali I Këngës winner deciding to withdraw the song from Eurovision is almost as inexplicable a move as Andreas Kümmert saying danke, but nein danke, to representing Germany. But while in Germany’s case, the unexpected turn of events worked in my favour, in Albania’s…it really didn’t. There is nothing horrendously wrong with I’m Alive. In fact, it’s a darn good eleventh-hour song (something you could also say about Australia’s). It’s more contemporary and uplifting than Diell, not to mention more energetic. Plus, it allows Elhaida to be a bit more playful with her undoubtedly impressive vocals. All of that makes it a welcome addition to the contest. But I just don’t get the hype. I find the repetition in the chorus quite irritating, and despite the inclusion of that big belter of a note towards the end (which is very Jessie J-esque) the song doesn’t travel to as epic of a place as I’d like it to. I haven’t seen Elhaida perform this live, but I did watch her winning FiK performance – and based on the way she sung the pants off Diell, her Eurovision performance has the potential to change my mind. But until then, I’m not 100% sold. 6 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 7.33

 

 

LITHUANIA

This Time by Vaidas & Monika

Lithuania

Rory: Ehhhh…I’m not really sure what to say about Lithuania this year. I’m happy that they’re finally sending something that will appeal to the masses, but performing first on the night might be a little bit of a hindrance to them, to say the least! As a sidenote, how nice is their video, though!!? Vaidas…phwoar! 6 points.

Matt: When I was a kid I always assumed that Grease’s John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John were a couple, due to their fantastic on-screen chemistry. I feel the same about Monika and Vaidas. They are so cute together, and I believe that their song of love comes from the heart (to avoid another disappointment, I’m not going to research whether they are a couple or not). The song itself is simple and catchy, but nothing too amazing. My prediction is that the audience will feel some love for this, but not enough to get them to the top. I think they’ll probably end up in the middle of the pack. 7 points.

Jaz: If you’re hoping I’m going to say ‘Aww, isn’t this cute!’, well, I’m not. Nor am I going to say ‘Ugh, isn’t this revolting!’. I’m somewhere in the middle, as it happens. I’m not totally feeling Vaidas and Monika’s love, but I’m not totally averse to it either. This Time, for me, is a poor man’s version (or more accurately, a poor but very peppy man’s version) of Firelight’s Coming Home, which in turn wasn’t going to win any awards for Best Original Song. It’s formulaic and verging on being sickly sweet (that “impromptu” kiss has already worn thin with me) but I don’t feel like it’s a song you can hate with a passion. It’s extremely catchy, after all, and the chemistry between Vaidas and Monika is up there with the most genuine of the year. They always appear to be enjoying themselves on stage, and enjoying performing with each other – in spite of the fact that they aren’t a couple (sorry to burst that bubble, Matt, but who knows…they might be by the time Eurovision’s over!). I guess I’m more of a fan of Lithuania’s performers than Lithuania’s song. This Time is serviceable pop, but it doesn’t excite me enough to consider voting for it. 5 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 6.00

 

 

SPAIN

Amanecer by Edurne

Spain

Rory: I’m afraid I’m going to have to go against the grain here and say that I don’t like Amanecer. Sure, it’s really catchy in the chorus (that e-e-e-o-o is addictive), but for me that’s all it is – just a bit of repetition. I feel like RTVE really overhyped the promotion of the song, and it’s just a bit of a letdown (I have a feeling that Kit Kat won’t have to give a free bar to everyone who retweeted that Tweet back in January!). *opens arms and braces self for the onslaught of tomatoes*. 3 points.

Matt: I think I have ballad fatigue. Amanecer was written by the same team who wrote 2012’s winning song Euphoria, so I was expecting a lot. While it’s a nice song, it’s no Euphoria, or Quédate Conmigo. It drifts along pleasantly for three minutes and then finishes. That’s it. Edurne is an amazing performer, though, and I’m sure she’ll bring it to life when she takes to the stage in May. 7 points.

Jaz: I’d like to journey back in time to Copenhagen 2014, and remind you that my opinion of Ruth Lorenzo’s Dancing In The Rain was as follows: I knew it was good, but I felt very little attachment to it. I didn’t love it, and it definitely didn’t give me the energy required to wave a flag for it (although I was happy to see Spain back in the top 10). Leaping back through the space/time  continuum to 2015, and enter Edurne. Amanecer is not only my new favourite word of all the words, but also a song that I do feel a connection with. That may have something to do with the girl crush I have developed on Edurne, but I genuinely do like her song a lot. I agree that it was overhyped – after the pre-release fervour, it could have been a masterpiece and still failed to meet expectation. But for me, it has the drama and atmosphere and Spanish-ness that I didn’t find in Dancing In The Rain. If Edurne is anything like her fellow countrywoman Pastora Soler, she will help Amanecer hit new heights when she gets to Eurovision by delivering a blistering vocal performance. Hopefully she’ll also bring us a hint of the wildness from the music video. Unfortunately that can not entail a live tiger being onstage, so a faux tigerskin cape that Edurne can whirl around everywhere might be called for. Cape or no cape, I think Spain’s entry has as much potential to make the top 10 as it does to end up mid-table, strangely enough. So much will depend on how this goes down in the jury and televised finals. I would be satisfied with Amanecer outdoing Dancing In The Rain, but I won’t be betting on that happening. 10 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 6.67

 

 

And there you have it! Another five reviews are done and dusted, and not without disagreement. Ultimately, the two Warriors won the day. Well, one of them did, but there wasn’t much between Nina and Amber.

  1. Georgia (7.67)
  2. Malta (7.33)
  3. Albania (7.33)
  4. Spain (6.67)
  5. Lithuania (6.00)

Despite our differing opinions, on average, the EBJ Jury ranked these countries fairly closely together. I suspect that’s a trend that won’t continue in Part 6 of the Viennese Verdicts, when I ask an American and an Englishman to help me review Finland, San Marino, Denmark, Estonia and Greece. You won’t want to miss the fireworks that combination could cause.

In the meantime, let me know how you’d rank today’s songs. Do you believe Rory’s right, and that Georgia wins the Warrior-off without question? Or do you think Matt’s on the money and Amber will definitely resurrect her Warrior at Eurovision? Maybe you actually agreed with something I said *gasp*. Whatever you’re thinking, we want to hear it!*

 

*To a point…I mean, don’t hurl abuse at us or anything. Save your curse words up in case the EBJ Jury gives a unanimous douze points to Finland.

 

nsig

 

VIENNESE VERDICTS | The EBJ Jury Reviews (Part 4)

Being all about that bass is so passé. Right now, at least within the Eurovision sphere, it’s all about those Eurovision 2015 reviews. That’s why I barely let you finish reading one installment before I publish another. Case in point: this is Part 4. Yep, we’re halfway through already!

Under the musical microscope today are Sweden, the UK, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Romania; and on the EBJ Jury today are an Australian, another Australian, and me – also an Australian. Pay careful attention to how our points stack up, because that might give you an insight into where the Aussie points will go come May 19th, 21st and 23rd. Or not. Actually, that’s very unlikely. Forget I said anything, okay?

 

TODAY’S EBJ JURY

vv4

Mrs. Jaz: She’s back! Louisa Baileche lookalike and mother of me, Mrs. Jaz refused to stop her review count at five. Hang on a second…no, that was me. I refused to let her stop at five. Anyway, she’s joining the EBJ Jury for the second and final time today to offer opinions from a non-fan, outside-of-the-bubble perspective. How she rates the entries from Sweden etc could be a gauge as to how they’ll fare in the final (if they make it that far) when all of the casual viewers drop by and vote for the songs that make the best first impressions.

Fraser McEachern: “Hello Europe, this is Fraser from Adelaide calling! As one half of the the record-breaking escTMI Eurovision review show (well, in our minds anyway) I have loved the Eurovision Song Contest since I first laid eyes on it back in 1998. I recall turning the TV channel over to see Dana International performing Diva, and from that moment, I was hooked – and I haven’t missed a contest since! My love for Eurovision culminated in Loreen’s 2012 win, which led escTMI to attend the show in Malmö in 2013. We loved it so much that this year, we’re heading to Vienna to join in the fun all over again. My favourite Eurovision songs of all time tend to be the same ones, just in different positions. At the moment, #1 is Invincible by Carola, #2 is Quedate Conmigo by Pastora Soler, #3 is Je N’ai Que Mon Âme by Natasha St-Pier, #4 is Je T’adore by Kate Ryan, and #5 is Rise Like A Phoenix by Conchita Wurst. As I said, these change regularly. However, there have been many brilliant songs (and remixes) over the years that I have become addicted to!”

escTMI on YouTube | escTMI on Facebook | Follow Fraser on Twitter

Jasmin Bear: “Yes, it’s me again. Just face it, I’m not going anywhere! I’m also not going to tell you a Fascinating Eurovision-Related Story Masquerading As A Regular Bio today, as I’m still trying to figure out which one I should publish next: a) a tale of all the times I thought I heard a Eurovision song playing in a shop but it turned out to be something else, and the ensuing disappointment; or b) a three-hundred-word mini essay weighing up the pros and cons of Dana International’s Gaultier fixation. They’re both so very scintillating, I can’t choose between them.”

 

 

We’re a fabulous trio, as far as I’m concerned (in fact, I think we should form an Alcazar-esque pop threesome and represent Australia at Eurovision next year, should the opportunity arise). I’m sure you’ll let us know if you agree or disagree with that once you’ve checked out our views on Måns, Electro Velvet, Loïc, Marta & Václav and Voltaj (and their songs, obviously). Let’s get started!

 

 

SWEDEN

Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw

Sweden

Mrs. Jaz: The first thing I thought when this song twanged into gear was ‘Have Mumford & Sons defected to Sweden for some reason?’. The folky/country intro reminds me very strongly of their kind of music. Then, things swiftly took a poppier turn and became anthemic and uplifting. This song boasts great choruses with a slick production sound and simple but effective lyrics that had me singing along by the second run-through. The remaining lyrics aren’t the world’s greatest, but that hardly matters when every other aspect is much more than mediocre. The staging visuals take the package up a notch, and I have to admit, the visual of Måns (he has a great voice and everything, but LEATHER PANTS!) helps too…7 points.

Fraser: I had big expectations of Måns in the lead-up to his performance in Melodifestivalen, and for the first few seconds of Heroes, I thought ‘Crap! What has he done? It’s a country song!’. Moments later, I realised he was just channeling the Avicii-esque sound that is big across the world at the moment, and that it’s a hook to get us into the fabulous pop song that follows. ‘We are the heroes of our time’ speaks volumes to a bit of a trend in Eurovision songs of late focusing on positive messages (think Rise Like A Phoenix and this year’s Beauty Never Lies) which I think will help it resonate with the voting public. If it doesn’t, Måns’ leather pants and background animations surely will! I love this song and I have a feeling it will do exceptionally well in the contest. DOUZE POINTS!!!

Jaz: BACK OFF, MUM. I SAW HIM FIRST. Ahem. Forget me being biased about Australia – it’s when I start talking about Sweden that my impartiality goes flying out the window with the greatest of ease. Despite my lack of Swedish roots, I feel particularly attached to the home of Melodifestivalen, and cannot help supporting them no matter what they send to Eurovision. Fortunately, for the past five years running Sweden has chosen my favourite Melfest entry to represent them in the ESC – so my fervent flag-waving has been out of genuine appreciation for their song. And lo and behold, they’ve just done it for the sixth time in a row. Just when I thought Sanna Nielsen’s 7th-time-lucky win couldn’t be equaled in terms of how much it excited me, Måns Zelmerlöw goes and triumphs on his third Melfest attempt. I’ve been a Måns fan since the Cara Mia days, but I always felt like that song, and its follow-up Hope and Glory, were a bit too schlager to succeed in a contest that was outgrowing that style. Not to mention the fact that they required dance moves that came at the expense of Måns’ vocals. Heroes is different. It’s more dynamic, more accessible (i.e. not overstuffed with schlager) and more of an anthem. Plus, the intriguing countrified intro is not only trendy, but gives Måns a chance to focus on his vocals (with a little attention reserved for the cartoon man). And his vocals absolutely soar on this infectious track that is ideally suited to raising the roof off an arena. His entry has everything going for it, even with the controversy over the graphics (which the delegation seems to be taking as a chance to make the staging even better) and Eurovision 2015 is Sweden’s to lose as a result. DOUZE POINTS!!!

EBJ Jury Score: 10.33

 

 

UNITED KINGDOM

Still In Love With You by Electro Velvet

Programme Name: Eurovision 2015 (C) BBC - Photographer: Sarah Dunn

Mrs. Jaz: Aaaand straight to the 1920s we go, with a song that would definitely be on the soundtrack of a movie entitled Flappers Go Mental. To quote Kath and Kim (hoping that someone outside of Australia will get the reference) this is different, it’s unusual! I won’t say it’s noice too, although the love story is cute, if a little too sweet and mushy at times. I like how unashamedly retro the song is, and the fact that it’s been infused with some contemporary sounds. But even so, that cosmic-sounding bit caught me off guard – it’s a weird inclusion. As a duet, Bianca and Alex work well together as they Charleston and scat their way through some amusing lyrics. This entry isn’t perfect, but it’s endearing and energetic, and the UK expat in me is giving it 6 points.

Fraser: Unlike with Sweden, my expectations for the UK are always low. They are so erratic with the quality of the songs they send, it’s just plain confusing. Enter Electro Velvet – wow! I had my toes tapping and my spirit fingers shaking (I’m not scatting for anyone). The video is rich and fun, and I have enjoyed the unique sound each time I have listened to it. Today, however, I’ve found the recorded version on Spotify, and it sounds like they have slowed it down by a third. I can only hope this is not what they will perform in Vienna [UPDATE: Fortunately, it isn’t]. I’ll give them some points for trying, but it’s all a guess until we get to see it performed live. 6 points.

Jaz: The first time I heard this song, I literally facepalmed. I thought the 1920s theme was cringey, the scatting was awful, and that no song that makes mention of ‘nasty diseases’ should ever have the chance to take to the Eurovision stage. All in all, I was pretty close to grabbing the UK by the shoulders and shaking them violently, while politely enquiring at the top of my lungs as to what the bloody hell they were thinking, voluntarily choosing to have this nightmare represent them on an international stage. But then I listened to it again, and don’t ask me how or why, but I found myself digging the ridiculous trip back in time. It is bonkers, but it definitely livens up a contest full of songs on the opposite end of the spectrum – i.e. down-tempo and vanilla. Alex and Bianca look and sound great together (I’m choosing to ignore the reports of lacking chemistry from those who’ve watched the pair’s live performances) and I love the parts they play that correspond with the lyrics. Competing against angsty, moody duos such as Stig & Elina and Mørland & Debrah Scarlett, Electro Velvet’s effervescence will be welcomed. Having said that, I do like the Estonian and Norwegian entries more than Still In Love With You, and I suspect both of those countries will leave Vienna with a better placing than the UK’s. But first impressions never last, and as I really like this song now, I hope it gets somewhere on the scoreboard. 8 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 6.67

 

 

BELGIUM

Rhythm Inside by Loïc Nottet

Belgium

Mrs. Jaz: I’ve been informed that I’m the 987426th person to say that this is very Lorde – but there’s nothing wrong with that! There is so much to enjoy where this entry’s concerned. The music and lyrics are really good, and the overall ‘sound’ really draws you in and takes you on an interesting journey. I wanted to keep listening (not the case with some of the others I’ve heard) and I would be happy to listen to it again. It’s my favourite of all the songs Jaz has forced me chosen for me to review! 10 points.

Fraser: Wow, wow and wow! I can completely understand why Loïc did so well on The Voice in Belgium. This song is not normally my sort of thing, but I really like it. He has soul and sauciness in his voice, and teamed with this song, I think he will be able to deliver some really good points for his country. Even if he doesn’t, we will keep watching the video – it’s hot! 10 points.

Jaz: Belgium is one of those countries that fail to impress year after year, making the majority of us think ‘Why bother?’ (or, in last year’s case ‘Why Mother?). Then, seemingly out of nowhere, they strike gold and send something epic. They most recently did so in 2013, putting their faith in teenage The Voice winner Roberto Bellarosa, who was duly rewarded with a place in the final, then a result that was one of the best Belgium had seen in a long time. In 2015, they’ve selected…well, a teenage alum of The Voice. And Loïc Nottet, as the alum is known, is peddling a freaking fantastic song, just like Roberto – only Rhythm Inside is superior to Love Kills. This is one of a bunch of this year’s songs that wouldn’t be out of place on the radio right now, and not just on mainstream stations. It’s a little alternative, but it still possesses so much of what attracts me to a pop song  – infectiousness, pared-back verses that contrast with big choruses, lyrics that may make little sense but are in no way lame or cheesy…it’s all there. And, like Fraser, I am left with no questions as to why Loïc had such a great run on The Voice. His pipes are as unique and enjoyable to listen to as his song. He may be just nineteen years old, but so was Lena when she won Eurovision in 2010 (and do I even have to mention Sandra Kim?). I’m not saying Belgium’s going to win the contest. That would be a huge ask, even if Loïc locked Måns in the Stadthalle basement on final night. All I’m saying is that I reckon their song is the bomb, and so is their artist – and that’s a recipe for success. I desperately want this to make the final, and as the overall package is stronger than the one Belgium put forward in Malmö (and with this being a weaker year than 2013) if they do qualify, a top 10 finish is within their reach. That, for Belgium, is more or less a win anyway. 10 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 10.00

 

 

CZECH REPUBLIC

Hope Never Dies by Marta Jandová & Václav Noid Bárta

Czech Republic

Mrs. Jaz: Well, this is all terribly, terribly dramatic, isn’t it? What a trés tragique, OTT ballad it is. In spite of all that drama, it didn’t really do anything for me – I spent most of the three minutes waiting for the END of the three minutes, which I’m guessing isn’t a promising sign in terms of potential Eurovision success. Just thinking about it makes me want to yawn, actually. I know they’re trying to tell us that hope never dies, but mine definitely did! I hope someone’s in the wings come contest time, ready to drag this pair off stage with one of those giant hooks reserved for drunk, off-key karaoke singers. 3 points.

Fraser: This is stating the obvious, but it’s very musical theatre. I love musicals, but I don’t really like this one. I don’t think their voices work well together – his is so deep and manly, hers is less so. Not for me, sorry. Czech Republic, you won’t be troubled in 2016. 4 points.

Jaz: The Phantom of the Opera is heeeeeeeere…competing in Eurovision 2015, apparently. He’s buffed up, gotten some ink and no longer requires his white mask, but based on the melancholy, theatrical sound of Hope Never Dies, it’s him, alright. Now, don’t get me wrong: I too love musicals, and the actual Phantom of the Opera soundtrack is as good as they come (thanks to Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber). But this song is so painfully ESC circa 2005, and so over-dramatic, that it doesn’t compare favourably. I do like it more at this point than I did after my first listen, but there’s no aspect that really grabs me. Nothing makes me love it. The Czech Republic hasn’t returned to Eurovision with the bang I was hoping for, so I think they’ll remain one of the weakest-performing participants when the 60th contest has concluded. It’s a shame, as it may dissuade them from trying again next year. Still, I won’t be sorry to see them left behind in their semi-final. 4 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 3.67

 

 

ROMANIA

De La Capăt (All Over Again) by Voltaj

Romania

Mrs. Jaz: Nice…very nice. This makes for a soothing listen, and I got a lot of emotion from it without having a clue what the subject matter was. I was curious about the topic at hand though, so I was pleasantly surprised by the language switch. The English part may not communicate the intended meaning explicitly (I’ve been schooled on that meaning by a certain someone) but it gave me a better understanding, and I think it will help the non-Romanian speakers of Europe connect with the song too. 8 points.

Fraser: I don’t mind this one. It’s a nice, mid-tempo song that will do something around the middle of the field in the contest. It doesn’t really go anywhere as a song, but it’s nice enough to hum along to. I am happy that they appear to be singing mostly in Romanian in the competition, then the end in English with that hint of ESL in his voice! 8 points.

Jaz: I’ll get straight to the point (which is something I rarely do): I’m in love with this. As soon as I heard Voltaj were the favourites to win the Romanian final, with a song that had already been a domestic hit, I had to give it a listen. After all, that was the case when Mandinga won the same NF in 2012, and Zaleilah was amazing. I had high hopes for what was then known as De La Capăt, and they were exceeded. This song is beautiful. You definitely don’t need to speak Romanian to know that there’s a message here; or to enjoy how nicely the song’s been constructed, with a lovely minimalism to the verses. You wouldn’t think Romania would go for minimalism of any kind based on the ostentatious entries they’ve been selecting recently – Miracle, It’s My Life, and even Zaleilah – but it’s great to see them opt for a change of pace. I’m very glad Voltaj are taking a bilingual version of their song to the ESC, rather than the fully-English one. Both versions are surprisingly good, but Romanian is so well-suited to music (and native tongues are so sparing in this year’s contest) that I think they made a good choice. With Romania’s 100% qualification record, I’d have no worries about Voltaj making it out of their semi if it wasn’t for one thing – lead singer Călin’s vocals, specifically during the national final. Considering how long his band has been around, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was having an off night. If so, and the staging is simplistic enough to allow the song to shine, Romania should find themselves in the final. Unfortunately, though, I’ll be surprised if De La Capăt (All Over Again) outdoes last year’s tacky, try-hard Miracle. 10 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 8.67

 

 

Well, that’s another round of highs and lows taken care of. But just how high were the highs, and how low were the lows? Here’s a recap in case you’ve got an incredibly short memory, and/or you’re too lazy to scroll back up and check.

  1. Sweden (10.33)
  2. Belgium (10.00)
  3. Romania (8.67)
  4. United Kingdom (6.67)
  5. Czech Republic (3.67)

Congratulations and jubilations go to Sweden, sitting pretty (so very pretty, ifyaknowwhatimean) on top of this party of five. Commiserations go to the Czech Republic, whose 5th place here will probably be hailed as a raging success after they’ve finished 16th in their semi final (having beaten nobody but San Marino).

Drop by again in a few days’ time as Matt – Fraser’s escTMI co-host – and Rory from ESC Views return to review Malta, Georgia, Lithuania, Albania and Spain. If you’re lucky, I might throw in that mini essay I mentioned earlier too.

In the meantime, why not revisit the first three installments of the Viennese Verdicts?

  • Part 1 feat. Russia, Austria, France, Ireland and Serbia
  • Part 2 feat. The Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Iceland and Switzerland
  • Part 3 feat. Cyprus, Poland, Italy, Montenegro and Armenia

And don’t forget to let the EBJ Jury know how you’d rank today’s scrutinised songs. Sweden may be on top with us, and in the betting odds – but who’s your favourite of the five?

 

nsig

 

VIENNESE VERDICTS | The EBJ Jury Reviews (Part 3)

Welcome to yet another installment of the Viennese Verdicts! I know, I know, I posted the last one, like, two seconds ago…two very long seconds that almost lasted for three days ago. But, you see, I’ve arrived at the point where I simply must cram things in if I want to take care of all necessary business by Eurovision time. Which I really do. So, with that in mind, let’s get cracking.

On the menu today we have a delicious (or not, depending on one’s tastes) selection of musical dishes, courtesy of Cyprus, Poland, Italy, Montenegro and Armenia. Meet the trio sampling these pan-European dishes:

 

TODAY’S EBJ JURY

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Kohan Ikin: Kohan is from Perth, Australia. He started watching Eurovision in 2003 to see famous Russian faux-lesbian pop duo tATu, and got hooked after seeing Alf Poier’s folk/metal act performed by cardboard animals. Kohan has since been to Eurovision three times, and engineered Perth’s first Eurovision nightclub event (together with Perth-via-Denmark fan Kate Hansen). Clearly that Alf Poier incident did something to his brain. You can stalk Kohan online here and here.

Wolfgang Schmidt: “My name is Wolfgang – in full, Wolfgang Michael Schmidt. But nice people and/or good friends call me ‘Wolf’ or ‘Mikey’. I am from a small town near Essen in the mid-west of Germany, not far from the Eurovision host city of 2011, Düsseldorf. I have been a Eurovision addict ever since I can think! The first contest I remember was ESC 1974, which one of the greatest bands on Earth, ABBA, won. From then on, I watched the show every year, missing it only in 1996 as it was not broadcast in Germany (due to the fact that we did not qualify to participate). In 1998 I attended Eurovision live for the first time to support the German delegation in Birmingham. That was the most amazing experience I ever had with the Eurovision! All in all, I have attended the contest four times, in Birmingham in 1998, Copenhagen in 2001, Düsseldorf in 2011 and Malmö in 2013. My all-time favorite Eurovision songs are Lane Moje by Željko Joksimović, Stronger Every Minute by Lisa Andreas, and The One That I Love by Chiara, which would all have gotten the full douze points from me. Eurovision is a ‘come together’ of different cultures, styles of music and kinds of people who all love to share the moments of great music, awesome stage performances and ridiculous dressing (well, sometimes!). And it is THE biggest party in Europe to celebrate with people coming from around forty different countries. That makes it so special to me once a year!”

Jasmin Bear: “Let’s continue the series of ‘Eurovision-Related Facts About Jaz You May Or May Not Want To Have Forced Down Your Throat’ with a list of the countries I’d like to win Eurovision 2015…based on where I’d most like to visit. Numero uno? Heja Sverige! My obsession with all things Swedish spawned from my addiction to the ESC and, consequently, Melodifestivalen. As a lover of the language, the food, the music, the movies, the architecture, the landscapes AND the flat-pack furniture of Sweden – and as someone still waiting to make their first Eurovision attendance happen – Mr. Zelmerlöw taking the top prize in Vienna would equate to me crossing two things off my bucket list at once. In terms of the other countries I’d be hysterically happy to visit in 2016 should they take out the 60th comp, no matter how unlikely that might be…I’d say the UK, Switzerland, Belgium or Iceland. But, if one of my top three songs should win (besides Sweden, as I’ve parroted on about that country enough already) I will be satisfied to jet off to Italy or Norway next year!”

 

 

Without further ado (or perhaps I should say ‘adio’, since Montenegro features in this round of reviews) I present our thoughts on what John/Giannis, Monika, Il Volo, Knez and Genealogy are serving up in Vienna. FYI, some of these songs have left a bad taste in our collective mouths…

 

 

CYPRUS

One Thing I Should Have Done by John Karayiannis

Cyprus

Kohan: Ugh! This really annoys me. I’m sure John is a nice guy, but…wait, when does that sentence ever end well? His voice is great, and the guitar reminds me of More Than Words by Extreme (not a bad thing).  But that puts all the focus on the lyrics, and they’re creepy.  Whiney post-breakup introspection: ‘I’m cold, I’m staring at the wall, it’s raining, sad colours’.  Then there’s the passive-aggressive streak that he ‘always did everything for you’, so clearly the breakup isn’t his fault. Oh, and the One Thing He Should Have Done is he ‘should have been there’ even more?! Am I the only one getting stalker vibes here? And what was that ‘hour of need’? These lyrics pose more questions than they answer. It’s like a Stephen King novel – possibly Misery. I’m looking forward to the karaoke version. 2 points.

Wolfgang: I have a soft spot for male singer/songwriter ballads, so I really like this song! I like the voice of Giannis and think he will do a good live performance. But I fear that the song can soon be forgotten again right after his performance. I would recommend staging with just the spotlight on Giannis and his song, which could create a more intimate atmosphere and give us a Tom Dice moment on stage. The ‘one thing he should have done’ by May is change his glasses and wear something comfortable, so we don’t get another Moran Mazor effect! I’d love to see this qualify to the final, but I don’t have much hope it will. Some of these ballads have to die the ‘ballad death’ in the semis. 5 points.

Jaz: Considering how long and involved Cyprus’ Eurovision Song Project was, it didn’t narrow things down to a great selection of songs. You could say that this particular project was, if not an F-grade fail, C-grade at least. Like the other less-than-impressive NFs of the season, though, Cyprus scores points for picking the best of a bad bunch – that is, the best apart from Hovig’s Stone In A River, which I personally believe should be representing them instead. One Thing I Should Have Done is a soft, reasonably pretty ballad that definitely harks back to the days of Tom Dice and his equally simplistic entry. The thing is, I was never that attached to Me and My Guitar, and the same goes for the bespectacled John/Giannis’ song (which has nothing to do with the fact that Tom was better-looking). It’s nice, it’s sweet, and the emotion is genuine, but I don’t feel much at all when I listen to it. The only reason I’d be disappointed if Cyprus didn’t qualify with this is because it’s Cyprus, and I always like it when they do advance. But unless they create a ‘moment’ on the night – an air of simplicity that provides a stunning contrast to most of the other performances – I think Slovenia’s three minutes that follow will obliterate all memory viewers have of Cyprus. 5 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 4.00

 

 

POLAND

In The Name of Love by Monika Kuzyńska

Poland

Kohan: I like this one! I know I’m meant to be a punk/metal fan, and this is so middle-of-the-road adult contemporary…but dammit, it works. Just when I think the song is about to plateau, it kicks up to the next level, bringing the guitars, bringing the drums. The way it swells to a crescendo is perfect. It better qualify for the final, it’s good. I think Poland is safely through semi two this year. 6 points.

Wolfgang: I am not really impressed by this song, as it sounds to me like the prototype of an LLB (Lame Lady Ballad). It could have been an entry in the contests of 1979, 1985, 1994 or 2001, etc – it sounds quite old-fashioned and like I’ve already heard it a hundred times before in different ESC shows. I absolutely think this song cannot stand out and will not qualify. I would compare it to the entry of France, with France having the advantage of already being qualified to the final. Sorry, but this simply is not enough to make the difference on the Eurovision stage. It sounds like the B-side of If You Asked Me To by Céline Dion. I hope there won’t be another Dion-esque diva performance in the second semi. I don’t see a second performance here! 2 points.

Jaz: Many people will be inquiring as to the whereabouts of the buxom butter-churner and her stain-removing friend (whisky and gin are hard to remove from one’s petticoat) in Poland’s performance this year, as I can safely assume they will not be making an appearance. In The Name of Love is pretty much as far removed – genre, mood and subject-wise – as you can get from My Słowianie, which is a strike against it in my book. Poland made a serious splash in Copenhagen, and it’s a shame to see them toss their triple-flavour icecream sundae with hot fudge sauce, sprinkles and a cherry on top (two actually…one on each scoop *wink*) in the trash in favour of a plain Greek yoghurt (or Polish yoghurt, if there is such a thing). Having said that, there must be a little sugar in this confection, because it is sweet. As piano ballads go, it flows nicely and compliments Monika’s voice, and the lyrics don’t make me nauseous. It isn’t cutting-edge, but I still feel like it fits well enough into the 2015 contest, even if it would go down a treat in 1995 as well. There’s nothing really wrong with it, and I find it to be a soothing, pleasant listen. But it’s just not memorable, and when you think back to Poland 2014, it becomes even less so in comparison. I cannot see Monika making it out of her semi final, no matter how hard I try, because there’s nothing here that would compel the masses to vote. She’ll do okay with the juries, and if her performance is well-packaged, she’s sure to avoid the dreaded last place. But I think that’s the best result Poland can hope for. 6 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 4.67

 

 

ITALY

Grande Amore by Il Volo

Italy

Kohan: Majestic. Italy has the full package: charisma, perfectly harmonised vocals…and they look fantastic. The way the song builds is sublime. I understand now the true power of a well-tailored Italian suit, and putting Back To The Future references in your video clip is a great way to bribe the Hatman jury (thanks, fellas). But…I’m only giving it 8 points (Jaz is gonna kill me). It’s a contender for the trophy and the juries will love it, but it isn’t a song I’m playing repeatedly.

Wolfgang: Il Volo are already popular in a lot of European countries. That is an advantage, because they already have a wide fan community. And the guys have great voices and outstanding live abilities, so this year Italy will easily fly again into the top 10 of the scoreboard if they do a perfect show. The song also combines the musical taste of the older and the younger generation, so that they will get a lot of points from various countries across Europe. I think it will easily end up 6th-8th in the final. The bookies already see this coming close to winning. IMO, it is the best song of these five I am reviewing here, but it is not a winning song. 8 points.

Jaz: If marrying a song ever becomes socially acceptable, I will be dragging this one down the aisle before you can say ‘Jaz, what the hell is wrong with you?’. It was love at first listen between us, fueled firstly by the beauty of the popera, secondly by the blend of those three voices, and thirdly by my bias where Italian music is concerned. Then, when I watched the music video, the collective attractiveness of Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca was added into the mix, and my grande amore (the pun had to happen) for Il Volo and their Sanremo winner was cemented. This entry is everything that great Eurovision moments are made of. It starts softly, then builds to an explosive crescendo perfect for pyrotechnics use; it’s sung in Italian, the most musical language in existence; and it’s performed by three magnificent vocalists who have been honing their harmonies for six years, despite still being in their early twenties. After a bit of a misstep last year, Italy should be back to its flawless, classy-as-heck best in Vienna. I don’t buy into any of the negative comparisons between Grande Amore and France’s operatic flop of 2011, Sognu. The former is more of a pop-and-opera hybrid (hence my use of the word ‘popera’ earlier) whereas the latter was straight opera – Grande Amore is much more accessible. Plus, the boys from Il Volo are charismatic and laid-back performers, unlike Amaury Vassili on the ESC stage. He looked stiff and uncomfortable, and like it was an extreme effort to expel every word of Corsican. A better reference point for Grande Amore would be Latvia’s 2007 entry Questa Notte, which was a triumph by Latvian standards. Italy being Italy, and Il Volo’s song being more dynamic and accessible than Questa Notte, they should fare even better. I do have to agree with Wolfgang – I don’t think Italy is gong to win Eurovision this year. But I do think they have the power to come close, and at the least, make up for Emma’s panty-flashing mishap. DOUZE POINTS!!!

EBJ Jury Score: 9.33

 

 

MONTENEGRO

Adio by Knez

 Montenegro

Kohan: I liked this when I first heard it, and it’s grown on me even though it’s not my usual style (what, no electronica? Where’s the drop?). The transition at 1:24 is awkward and I don’t know what the song is about, but it still keeps me hooked every time I listen – there’s something about the ambience it creates. I hope it qualifies, but I doubt it’s a song we’ll remember next year. 7 points.

Wolfgang: After my first listen to Adio I was a bit disappointed, because my expectations on another Željko song were really high, him being my favorite male artist of all time in Eurovision. And I really love all four of his entries to the Eurovision, including Oro by Jelena Tomašević. When I compare this song to the other four, I automatically come to the conclusion that Adio is not the best song Željko has ever written for Eurovision. But that’s complaining on a very high level, because it is still a very good song and Montenegro can be proud of Knez, who is a really good singer, too. I am sure this will qualify to the final, but then, anything can happen. I hope at least for a placement between 11th and 16th, which would be a bit better than Sergej Četković’s placing last year. This song to me is a grower, getting better with every further listen. 7 points.

Jaz: Once the weaker player in the Serbia VS Montenegro tournaments I hold in my mind, Montenegro has embarked on a steady rise in my estimations over the past few years. Igranka > Ljubav Je Svuda. Moj Svijet > the nothing that Serbia sent last year (obviously). And now, Adio > Beauty Never Lies, by far. I too am a massive Željko fan – y’all probably know that all of his previous entries are ESC favourites of mine – so whenever I find out he’s making any kind of Eurovision comeback, as he is composing Adio for Knez…I FREAK OUT! There is something hauntingly, spellbindingly beautiful about all of the Balkan ballads he creates, and this one is no exception. I agree that it isn’t his strongest composition for the contest, but it has the ŽJ stamp on it, and I’m sold. The only thing missing is the man himself. I have nothing against Knez, who is a great performer, but he’s not quite as…shall we say, debonair as Mr. Joksimović (and the fact that he looks like a magician reminds me so much of this that I can’t take him seriously). But all in all, the ethnicity, interesting rhythms and great melody have won me over as they always do. This may be a ballad amongst many, but it will stand out, being the traditional, non-English-language kind, performed by a male (as opposed to the generic, English-language female ballads on offer). I hope that equals qualification. If not – or if Adio fails to finish in the top 10 in the final – it will be the first Željko entry to finish outside of that top 10. I suspect it will struggle to hit those heights, but I’m more than happy to help it out by voting for Montenegro. 10 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 8.00

 

 

ARMENIA

Face The Shadow by Genealogy

Armenia

Kohan: This just confuses me. With the disparate musical styles, it feels glued together, like it’s trying too hard to be Bohemian Rhapsody. Just when I hear a part I like, it turns into a ballad again. Or worse, the part with the opera singer attempting to scat like the UK’s Electro Velvet. Never mind that ‘Genealogy’ is contender for most uncool band name, and that I have no idea what’s with the 1800s family photos in the video (I think I’ve missed something). And those lyrics…is she singing ‘You are chicken your heart’? I give half a point for the black leather outfits (so goth!) and half a point for the power rock ballad parts. I.e. 1 point.

Wolfgang: I am really biased with this entry of Armenia this year. My first thought was, six amazing voices do not make a perfect song! The multiple changes in this song rather make a chaotic impression to me. Every artist alone is a really good performer, but together they don’t make the perfect whole. I am a bit indifferent with this song, but there is something in it that makes me like it. Nevertheless, I think this will qualify to the final even in a semi with so many Eastern European countries. If the Dorians qualified in Malmö, this one should easily do, as it is much better. 3 points.

Jaz: I hate to say this, but whenever I think about Armenia in relation to Eurovision 2015, it comes out as ‘ArmeniUGGGGH!’. I love the idea of Genealogy, presumably borrowed from Switzerland’s assembling of Six4One in 2006, and in theory, the six members would be a force to be reckoned with. In practice, however, they are putting forward a shambolic, chaotic reject from an off-Broadway musical. If Armenia had sent Inga, Tamar, Essaï or any of the other members on their own or as a duet (with a different song) things might have been more palatable. Unfortunately, all of the singers have such distinctive vocal stylings and genres they are suited to, so Face The Shadow comes off as three minutes of cobbled-together competition, in which everybody’s fighting to be the star of the show. I hate to break it to them, but nobody’s winning that fight. As cookie-cutter and naff as Six4One’s If We All Give A Little was back in ’06, at least that was cohesive. It knew what it was, and all six singers blended into a serviceable supergroup. Genealogy and Face The Shadow are the complete opposite. In spite of the star power, I can see them giving us the car crash performance of the year – an onstage mess that will hopefully be swept away by Belgium straight afterwards. 2 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 2.00

 

 

Talk about the good, the bad and the ugly! This round of reviews has given the EBJ Jury leaderboard one of its highest, and one of its lowest scores so far.

Here are today’s standings:

  1. Italy (9.33)
  2. Montenegro (8.00)
  3. Poland (4.67)
  4. Cyprus (4.00)
  5. Armenia (2.00)

So Italy reigns supreme for the time being, taking the #1 spot from previous champs Slovenia. Will our Grande Amore take them all the way? Or will another bookies’ favourite end as favourite with my esteemed jury members? You’ll have to wait and see.

Up next = Sweden, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Romania. A YouTube star and my mother (again) will be passing judgment on the songs from these five countries, and you won’t want to miss what they have to say. What I have to say will probably be interesting too. Fingers crossed.

I’ll see you in a few days’ time for Part 4 of the Viennese Verdicts. In the meantime, let me know how you would rank Italy, Montenegro, Poland, Cyprus and Armenia – a.k.a. how much you disagree with all of the above!

 

nsig

 

VIENNESE VERDICTS | The EBJ Jury Reviews (Part 2)

Hello again, for approximately the 407th time. When I put it that way, it’s no wonder I struggle to think of an original greeting every time I write one of my infamous rambling intros.

This intro is not going to be one of the rambling variety *insert worldwide cheers here* as all I really need to say is welcome to Vol. II of the Viennese Verdicts!

In this episode, the EBJ Jury is getting up, close and personal with another five Eurovision 2015 entries – namely, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Iceland and Switzerland. I have two brand new jurors by my side (figuratively speaking) and they’re ready to wax lyrical and not-so-lyrical about this bunch of songs – i.e. praise the pants off them, and trash them like there’s no tomorrow. Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to today’s partners in crime.

 

TODAY’S EBJ JURY

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Mrs. Jaz: That’s the code name I’m giving my mum for the purposes of these reviews. Yes, the woman who (accidentally) raised this Eurovision obsessive agreed to be on the inaugural EBJ Jury, which had nothing to do with me threatening her with the ten-hour YouTube loop of Epic Sax Guy thrusting away. Mrs. Jaz isn’t averse to the ESC – she’s put up with years of me forcing her to listen to the official albums and bringing the subject up at every opportunity. Plus, she sat and watched Junior Eurovision with me last year (I’m assuming there was nothing more to her liking on TV at the time) and watched me burst into hysterical tears of happiness when Italy won it. Still, she’s not exactly a fan. She’s familiar with the winners and entries that were in the charts when she was growing up in the UK, but she has no idea what a Melodifestivalen is and doesn’t understand why I voluntarily wake up at 3am to watch it. I played Mrs. Jaz her assigned entries and had her review them before I told her which countries they were from, what the songs were called and who was performing them – i.e. it was a totally blind process. So, you can be sure her reviews haven’t been influenced by a bias for lustworthy, leather-clad Swedish men or anything (unlike mine). If you think our way with words is somewhat similar, that’s because I was responsible for padding her review notes out into paragraphs. But all opinions, observations and witty/bitchy remarks are her own!

PS – I guess I should explain the above bio photo of France’s 2003 entrant, the lovely Louisa. Mrs. Jaz wasn’t 100% comfortable with having her face plastered on the internet (I assume because she knows how attractive the rest of the EBJ Jury is and feels inadequate as a result). So I’ve used the closest ESC-related doppelganger I could think of to compensate. Imagine Louisa wearing specs and you’ll be just about there.

Nick Provenghi: “Congratulations, I have arrived! My name is Nick and, contrary to what my intro suggests, I am not Icelandic, but am rather coming to you from the rather unremarkable American Southwest. Five years ago, an accidental click on Lena’s video for Satellite gave me a new life-wrecking life-changing addiction. In the past five years, my favorites have ranged from sweet Dutch guitar pop in 2012 to arena-filling rock from Finland in 2014 – but my favorite entry ever would have to be Hungary’s Kedvesem from 2013.”

Nick’s blog Shining ESC | Nick on Twitter

Jasmin Bear: “Yep, it’s me again! I gave you a regular ol’ bio last time, but I don’t want to repeat that now since I’ll be on my own jury for every installment of the Viennese Verdicts. Instead, allow me to provide you with a “fascinating” ESC factoid about me. The first Eurovision Song Contest I ever laid eyes on was the Athens 2006 show, and I’m pretty sure that was by accident when I was just a naïve fourteen-year-old flicking through the TV channels, hoping to see a bunch of Finnish monsters winning a pan-continental song contest. I really got lucky that night, didn’t I? My point is, once you’ve seen Lordi, you can’t stop yourself from investigating further. My interest was well and truly piqued by those rubber-clad rockers, and by the time I’d watched JESC 2006 and ESC 2007 in Helsinki, I was officially obsessed. The 2007 show will always have a special place in my Eurovision-logo heart as the first contest I experienced as a fan. Not to mention the fact that Finland put on an epic show, and that hosts Jaana and Mikko were perfection personified. I’m still waiting for them to call me up and beg me to hang out with them. It’s been eight years, but I haven’t lost (all) faith.”

 

Now the formalities are out of the way, read on to find out what the three of us think of the offerings from Trijntje, Mørland & Debrah, Maraaya, Maria and Mélanie. Spoiler alert: reactions are mixed!

 

 

THE NETHERLANDS

Walk Along by Trijntje Oosterhuis

Netherlands

Mrs. Jaz: Well, isn’t this catchy! I found myself tapping my feet to the beat and singing along to those why-ay-ay-ays almost instantly. I think this would make an excellent karaoke track. I like Trijntje’s voice and the country vibe of the song. It is a bit repetitive though, and I find myself wondering ‘why-ay-ay-ay’ the Netherlands didn’t make better use of the time they had. More verse content might have helped, because that chorus comes around very quickly and could very easily start to grate. 6 points.

Nick: In my strange little head, I like to imagine the origin story of this year’s Dutch entry playing out like an episode of the Real Eurovision Singers of Amsterdam, with Anouk teaming up with her friend Trijntje to get back at the former’s archival, Ilse de Lange, for upstaging her. Unlike the strategy she used for her 9th place finish in Malmö, though, Anouk went down the pop route and got a little caught up in the pursuit of a crown, because she forgot the soul to the song. Walk Along is a nice little number delivered well by Trijntje, but it’s sadly devoid of any of the charm that Anouk and Ilse both channeled to get to the (near) top. 6 points.

Jaz: The Netherlands have had an extremely successful past few years at Eurovision, kick-started by Anouk’s qualification in 2013 (their first since 2004) and eventual top 10 result (their first since 1999). The woman in black returns this year as songwriter and producer for Trijntje’s Walk Along, which is surprisingly upbeat considering its creator (sorry/not sorry, but I always found Birds to be a depressing life-drainer). It is peppy and it is catchy (that ‘why-ay-ay-ay?’ is a hook and a half) for sure…but boy, is it repetitive! You’ve barely heard the first chorus and started to wonder what else the song will offer, when another chorus and another set of why-ay-ay-ays comes along (or should I say ‘walks along’?). I really enjoy listening to this entry, but it’s very obvious that it doesn’t take advantage of the 180 seconds it has to play with, unlike many of the songs it’s competing against. Those hearing it for the first time during semi final one will latch on to that hook quite easily, and if they like what they’re hearing as much as I do, the repetitiveness won’t stop them from voting for Trijntje. Still, I’m on the fence with regards to a third Dutch qualification on the trot. 7 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 6.33

 

 

NORWAY

A Monster Like Me by Mørland & Debrah Scarlett

Norway

Mrs. Jaz: Wow…what did this guy do in his early youth, exactly? Jeez! Apart from being slightly concerned about that (though as he’s singing live at Eurovision and not via satellite from a prison cell, that concern might be unnecessary) I really liked this, if that’s the right way to respond to such a dark song. The criminal and his lady friend (Norway’s Bonnie and Clyde, I presume) sound lovely together, and their song has more substance and more of a story than the Dutch song. I appreciate the fact that it’s lyrically interesting and musically in-depth – it’s not fluff. 8 points.

Nick: For the second year in a row, I just can’t “get” the Norwegian entry. But at least this year, I can pinpoint what’s bugging me, and it’s the lyrics, for the most part. That opening line is just awful: ‘I did something terrible in my early youth.’ No, Mørland, you did something terrible in the early part of this song, because I burst out laughing when I heard that for the first time. The rest of the song doesn’t get much better, and as a result, it wastes the perfectly nice music and singers. 5 points.

Jaz: When a mere snippet of a song gives me moist eyes and goosebumps, I know I’ve stumbled upon something special. That’s what my favourite ESC entry of all time, Lane Moje, does to me on a regular basis. As you may have guessed, A Monster Like Me has done the same ever since Mørland, Debrah and I became acquainted, back when the MGP teasers were released. Their song had ‘NORWEGIAN WINNER!’ written all over it, and sure enough, it’s heading to Vienna with my full support. For me, the song combines the best aspects of the classic Eurovision duet – an intriguing dynamic, voices that harmonise, and a moment that basically screams ‘INSERT PYRO HERE’ – with lyrical and emotional content that is a world away from the artificial cheese of such duets as In A Moment Like This. I don’t know exactly what Mørland did that made him such a monster either, but I do know that he and his flame-haired compatriot are an act I will be supporting wholeheartedly come May (whilst shedding a tear or two, most likely). A tip or two for the MGP-to-ESC transition, though: polish those vocals and rethink Debrah’s bizarre face-bun hairdo (the retro-glam look from the music video wouldn’t go astray for the Eurovision performance, actually). Even if those tips aren’t taken on board (though why wouldn’t they be?) I give Norway DOUZE POINTS!

EBJ Jury Score: 8.33

 

 

SLOVENIA

Here For You by Maraaya

Slovenia

Mrs. Jaz: This is a good one. I could imagine it being played on the radio right now. It’s very instant, not overly repetitive and generally quite memorable. Her voice is unusual in a great way, which adds more of an X-factor to the package. Once again, I was tapping my fingers and feet as I was listening to it. All of the above makes me think Slovenia could have Eurovision success with this. 8 points.

Nick: Say ‘Slovenia’, and images of a flute-playing Morticia Addams and ill-advised wedding dresses might come to mind. Thankfully, neither of those things are anywhere close to this year’s Slovene entry. Devilishly modern and sleek, Here For You is the perfect marriage of dance and violin, brought on by a (hopefully) perfect marriage between singer Marjetka and composer Raay. The composition is totally invigorating and gets under your skin with ease. And unlike other songs with catchy music, the lyrics can comfortably support the tunes here, as they’re crisp and charming. 10 points.

Jaz: Just because a song was the best of a bad bunch (more on Switzerland later!) doesn’t mean that song is mediocre. Case in point, Slovenia ’15. Even with serial ex-Yugo backup vocalist (and occasional lead artist) Martina Majerle in the mix, EMA was a final of less-than-impressive standards this year. Here For You stood out like a diamond-encrusted mullet dress on a rack of black, un-ironed business slacks. It may not be at the very top of my rankings, but it’s higher than I’ve had a Slovenian entry in years. It’s catchy and trendy, with that violin riff serving as the palate-cleansing sorbet between the slightly repetitive courses of the chorus. It’s the kind of song I’d play to a member of the anti-ESC brigade, just to see the look on their face afterwards when I casually mentioned that it’s representing Slovenia in the contest this year. It’s also the kind of song that I actually have to be listening to in order to remember just how much I like it, which shouldn’t harm Slovenia’s chances of achieving their best result for a long time – that’s what the recap is for. 8 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 8.67

 

 

ICELAND

Unbroken by Maria Olafs

Iceland

Mrs. Jaz: Like Slovenia’s song, Iceland’s is catchy, instant and contemporary, though this one’s a bit more commercial-sounding. There’s another lovely female voice on record here, singing nice, inspirational lyrics. I’m a words person where music is concerned, and I did really like the latter. My only big complaint would be the abruptness of the ending – it’s very sudden. And I was a little bit disappointed when the song was over! 7 points.

Nick: In a return to form from 2012, Iceland gave us the best national final of the year in Söngvakeppnin, but selected its most underwhelming winner in recent memory. María Ólafs stepped out onstage looking like Emmelie de Forest’s understudy, with an even more ridiculous song than Only Teardrops. Remarkably, the team made a song that consists entirely of chorus, and it gets old incredibly fast. María’s tendency to go shrill doesn’t help matters here, and the entire package is the worst Icelandic entry I can remember (my memory doesn’t go back far, so take that with a grain of salt). 3 points.

Jaz: I’m going to attempt to push aside the fact that I desperately wish I was reviewing SUNDAY’s Fjaðrir right now, and instead review Unbroken as if it’s the only Icelandic song I’ve heard this NF season. Of course, there’s still the matter of the superior Icelandic version of this song, but…again, that’s irrelevant, because it’s the English version that’s going to Vienna. Maria’s ballad was one of the Söngvakeppnin candidates that drew me in from the start, being as melodically instant as it is. One of its biggest positives is that it’s not one bit depressing; rather, it injects a sense of hope and joy and all things uplifting into a field heavy with ballads that ARE depressing. The English lyrics are a little cliché and emphasise how repetitive the song is, but the situation could have been a lot worse (I don’t want to name any names, but…oh, what the hell. SERBIA!). I can’t help but love this – those happy vibes and the way it builds wins me over every time. Maria is adorable (I know she’s 21, but since she looks 12 I figure I can use that adjective) and I think her voice is, if not totally on point, perfectly ready to belt out Unbroken on the ESC stage. My only real criticism here would be the Emmelie de Forest costume she’s likely to adopt for May. That would bring back unfortunate memories for me. DON’T DO IT, MARIA!!! 10 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 6.67

 

 

SWITZERLAND

Time To Shine by Mélanie René

Switzerland

Mrs. Jaz: I may have been disappointed when the Icelandic song ended, but when Switzerland’s did I was glad, to be honest. It’s not dreadful, but all in all it’s pretty flat. It seems to want to be dramatic, like it’s aiming for an explosive moment, but it never even gets close. There’s merit in the music, but the lyrics are quite weak – cheesy and cliché. That doesn’t do it for me, I’m afraid. 4 points.

Nick: Ah, Switzerland. Home of the EBU, chocolate, and a terrible NF format. And this year, only the chocolate hasn’t disappointed me yet. Mélanie won the already weak national final with this dirge of a ballad. The big problem is that it’s so uncommitted to any of the ideas it plays with. If it wants to be an empowering, coming-of-age song, it shouldn’t have a dated 70s guitar solo two minutes in. There’s just nothing that this entry gets right, and the delegation will probably be making an early trans-Alpine return across the border from Vienna. 2 points.

Jaz: Like Slovenia, Switzerland didn’t set the most appetising banquet of songs on their table this year. Unlike Slovenia, this is the case pretty much every year in Switzerland, Still, they have to be given credit for always choosing as wisely as possible, as they have done with Mélanie and Time To Shine. I dislike the title of this song due to its cheesy connotations, but the fact that the song is zero percent LLB (lame lady ballad, for those unfamiliar with this EBJ-copyrighted acronym) and one-hundred percent…actually, what IS it? It’s not a traditional ballad, or an R & B track, though there are tinges of that present. My best description would be down-tempo inspo-pop that tries and fails to be an arena anthem. Nonetheless, there’s something about this that attracts me. I find myself singing along to the chorus automatically, and I like the construction of the song as a whole. Mélanie’s voice also works for me. Apart from the title, the cliché lyrics of the chorus and the oh-so-2000s prom dress she wore at the national final, I’m digging her entry. Donate the dress to your local charity shop, Mel, and I might just consider sending a vote or two your way. 8 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 4.67

 

 

Well, I guess that answers the famous question posed by Shakespeare: ‘To be divisive or not to be divisive, when it doth cometh to Eurovision entries?’. Some of this year’s songs are dividing opinion like never before (except for all of the other times that happened before) and I would like to take this opportunity to inform both Nick and my mother that I won’t be speaking to either of them again for quite a while due to their comments on Norway and Switzerland respectively.

JUST KIDDING! Here’s the ranking of today’s Viennese Verdicts.

  1. Slovenia (8.67)
  2. Norway (8.33)
  3. Iceland (6.67)
  4. The Netherlands (6.33)
  5. Switzerland (4.67)

The EBJ Jury’s Top 40 will be revealed in due course, but if you recall the results of the previous reviews, you’ll be aware that we now have a new leader in Slovenia. Sorry, Ireland! Will they remain on top or will one of next week’s countries steal the #1 spot? Up next are Cyprus, Poland, Italy, Montenegro and Armenia, with Australian and German representation on the judging panel. You’d be crazy not to come back and see what goes down!

 

 

nsig

 

VIENNESE VERDICTS | The EBJ Jury Reviews (Part 1)

IT’S TIME!!! With Eurovision so close I could almost touch it (if I had ridiculously long arms) it’s beyond appropriate for me to kick off my 2015 reviews right here, right now. But wait – there’s more!

For the first time this year, I decided I wasn’t going to review song after song (after song) all on my lonesome. Not when, thanks to modern technology, I knew I had army of Eurovision fanatics from all over the globe at my disposal. Granted, the recruitment ended with the EBJ Jury mostly being made up of Australians, but…what can I say? Together, we’re large and in charge. Kind of.

The EBJ Jury, in case you were wondering, is the highly imaginative name I came up with to describe the slaves hard-working fans I duped into helping me out. Each week, a different pair of ESC obsessives (though some faces will appear on a few occasions) will join me to judge five of the songs that will take to the Wiener Stadthalle stage next month. We’ll each award these songs ESC-style points (what else?) and I’ll calculate an average figure that will become that country’s ranking score. It’s all pretty straightforward, though I know I’ve made it seem the opposite.

So, are you up for meeting today’s jurors? I hope so, because here they are!

 

TODAY’S EBJ JURY

vv1Rory Gannon: “HELL-OHHHHH guys! My name is Rory and I am the beautiful (ish) age of 16. I currently co-run a little blog called ESC Views (where your Eurovision views are brought to you..or are they?!) and…well, I suppose I’m pretty much the definition of a non-conforming Eurovision fan; in other words, if there’s a fanwank *ahem* Sweden *ahem*, I’m sure to hate it! I’ve been to two magnificent Eurovisions – Düsseldorf in 2011 and Malmö in 2013 – I know, jealous much? *wink* Oh, and just so you know, I didn’t cheer for my homeland of Ireland – that really just ain’t my thing! My favourite songs from Eurovision would have to include the AMAYYYYZIN My Słowianie (I know, weird right?!), Ein Lied Kann Eine Brücke Sein aaaaaand……hmm., Birds too. It is quite an odd range, but, myeh, each to their own!”

ESC Views | ESC Views on Facebook

Matt Kelly: “I’m Matt from Adelaide (or Radelaide, as the locals like to refer to it), Australia. I “star” in a Eurovision show on YouTube called escTMI (I know, I need to get a life). In 2013 I was lucky enough to do the pilgrimage to Malmö to attend my first Eurovision. What a dream it was. This year I’ll be doing that loong flight to Europe again to attend the contest in Vienna.”

escTMI on YouTube | escTMI on Facebook

Jasmin Bear: “My name is Jasmin, but I’m known in Eurovision circles as ‘Jaz’. I’m guessing you’re somewhat familiar with me as you’re currently reading my blog. Eurovision is my life passion, even if my family and (some of) my friends can’t comprehend that, and I think about it on average six times a minute. I’ve never attended a contest, but you can bet your plagiarized stick-figure man that if Sweden wins in Vienna – and, to be honest, even if they don’t – I’m going in 2016, gosh darn it! My all-time favourite ESC entry is Lane Moje by Željko Joksimovic, as I’m a sucker for a big Balkan ballad, and I truly believe that Sanna Nielsen is angel sent from Eurovision and/or Melodifestivalen heaven…a place I’m very keen to visit in the distant future.”

 
Now we’re all acquainted, let’s get cracking on EBJ’s 2015 reviews – reviews that are being conducted collaboratively for the first time in my five-and-a-half-year history. Y’all must be so relieved to be getting a break from my solo Eurovisual ramblings.

*awkward silence*

Ahem. We’ll begin with Russia, and continue with Austria, France, Ireland and Serbia.

 

RUSSIA
A Million Voices by Polina Gagarina

Russia

Rory: Ooohh….okay, I’m going to try not to offend anyone if I can, but that might a bit of a mammoth task! So yeah, I’m pretty much neutral on Russia’s song this year. I mean, the song is okay, a tad mediocre if I’m to say something negative about it, but Polina is a great singer. And also, I really don’t agree with the whole booing Russian artists thing – don’t blame Polina, Masha, Nastya or Dima – they didn’t do anything. Join in with Stephane & 3G and blame Putin! Getting back to the actual song here, I’m sure it’ll do well and I hope Polina does do well, but it’s just not the sort of song I would find myself listening to post-Eurovision. 4 points.

Matt: I love an anthem – a song that you can sing along to in the car at the top of your lungs. A Million Voices is an anthem with a beautiful message of peace and acceptance. The video is gorgeous, filled with beautiful, happy children dancing around with Polina. It almost has me believing that everything in the world is hunky-dory. This song would be one my favourites if it was from any country other than Russia. Why does Russia keep sending these anthems of world peace? It’s such a joke and it’s nothing more than propaganda. I know Eurovision is a song contest, and politics shouldn’t come into it, but Polina is representing her country, and the song’s message is totally contradictory to Russian politics. Russia, next year, please think about sending a simple song about love, and maybe people won’t be so upset. Cue the booing. 7 points.

Jaz: Another year, another “inspirational” ballad from Russia about peace, love and understanding, and all that nausea-inducing schmaltz. There’s very little authenticity to this entry, from the cliché lyrics to the fact that few – if any – Russians were involved in writing them (I know a ton of countries search internationally for songs, but that kind of shopping around always rubs me up the wrong way). And yet, the package is partially saved by a) a decent melody; b) a big, instant chorus; and c) Polina’s mesmerising looks and powerful (at least within the walls of a recording studio) voice. So I’m torn. It’s 2015, and this isn’t a song you’d hear outside of Eurovision, unless Celine Dion was performing it during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. That aspect, I dislike. But A Million Voices is the less cheesy cousin of 2013’s What If, which I did end up falling for and which gave Russia a very good result. I’m giving it a conflicted 6 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 5.66

 

AUSTRIA
I Am Yours by The Makemakes

Austria

Rory: Hmm..I really am quite indifferent to Austria this year. Okay, the song as a standalone would fare very well in terms of being on the radio and trying to promote an album of some sort, but this is a competition we’re talking about here – you either have to make a mark on people’s minds or get out, and Austria aren’t managing to make that happen this year. I hope they do well, purely for the fact that they’re gonna put on a great show, but that’s pretty much it for me. 5 points.

Matt: Austria has sent another attractive bearded singer with flowing locks. The MakeMakes’ song I Am Yours is everything a host country wants: it’s a nice, easy-listening, inoffensive song that won’t come last and definitely won’t win. The song starts off promisingly, evoking thoughts of Coldplay, but you soon realise it’s going nowhere. It’s repetitive and just plain dull. Not even setting the piano on fire can manage to inject interest into the performance. 6 points.

Jaz: Host entries usually fall into one of two categories – either they’re lacklustre as heck because the host country has bigger fish to fry and/or doesn’t want to win again; or they’re epic, presumably by accident when the host country stopped trying too hard to pick a winner because they didn’t have to. I Am Yours, however, is a mixture of the two for me. While I accept that it’s low-key and unlikely to trouble the top of the scoreboard (which for some people, would make it lacklustre) I really enjoy listening to it, and I think it’s an entry Austria should be proud to present to Europe (and Australia) on home soil. The resemblances the chorus bears to Coldplay’s The Scientist might give it a flicker of familiarity that works in its favour come May. The Makemakes make (#hadto) for a very nice, if not ground-breaking, choice to succeed Conchita. 7 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 6.00

 

FRANCE
N’oubliez Pas by Lisa Angell

Les Grands du Rire; tournage; Lisa Angell  |

Rory: When I heard this song for the first time, I didn’t quite get it. For me, N’oubliez Pas was just another ballad flower in the meadow. But after listening to it for a few months, I do feel like it has grown on me. It’s a little bit like Riverdance: it starts off really timid and quiet and it grows and grows until you get the dramatic climax at the end of the song. Lisa can deliver the song well live, but I just hope she can manage to repeat it onstage in Vienna – let’s face it, the French need it! 7 points.

Matt: The French entries always seem to cop a lot of flack and I’m not sure why. The good thing is it doesn’t seem to deter them. If something doesn’t work one year, they send something totally different the next. Lisa Angell is a million miles away from 2014’s Twin Twin. Her song is a haunting ballad that’s totally old-school Eurovision. It builds in all the right places and ends with a bang right on the three-minute mark. In a year full of ladies singing ballads, N’oubliez Pas is the most sophisticated – the Chanel of ballads. 7 points.

Jaz: I don’t know how much I have to say about France this year, aside from BRING BACK THE MOUSTACHE! How many adjectives can you employ to describe a rather anonymous, bordering-on-pretty ballad? A ballad that’s competing in a field overgrowing with similar, arguably better songs? This is perfectly acceptable. It plods along nicely, and Lisa performs it like the seasoned professional she is, giving those of us non-fluent in French just enough emotion to realise there’s a story behind the song…even if we’re not 100% on what it is until we Google it. But does it excite me like Twin Twin’s quirky mod-pop did? Nope. Will N’oubliez Pas fare better than last place with two points? Oui, but that means little to me. I’d rather support an entry that floats my boat and watch it fail than see one that makes me feel nothing succeed. 5 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 6.33

 

IRELAND
Playing With Numbers by Molly Sterling

Ireland

Rory: I’m trying not to sound like a patriotic twat, but I swear to god, this normally doesn’t happen! I – for once – love my country’s song! Well, I’d have much preferred Erika instead, but Playing With Numbers was always going to be a close second place. I will admit, the song is a bit of a grower, but with all the recaps that ORF will be showing, surely that little segment will stick in people’s minds! No? Plus, I MET the one and only Molly backstage after she won (that’s right, we’re going up in the world!!) and OMG, guys, she is such a modest person for a 17-year-old. Don’t deny her the chance of showcasing her work to the world! 10 points.

Matt: Molly was my favourite from this year’s Irish selection. She was the most original and talented participant, but I’m not sure Ireland’s best will be good enough, which is a shame as Ireland has had really bad luck in the last couple of years of the contest. The song is nice – think Missy Higgins – but it isn’t interesting enough to stand out from the other, bigger ballads. I think people will listen to this for a minute, then take the opportunity to head to the loo. 5 points.

Jaz: No need to call the doctor, folks – I can tell you right here, right now that what Ireland is suffering from is a classic case of Grower Syndrome. My prescription: repeated listens that, if you’re anything like me, will have you head over heels for Playing With Numbers in no time. The first time I heard this, my brain went ‘meh’, although I was relieved Ireland had selected one of the most decent songs possible. But the more ear-time I gave to Molly’s three minutes, the more I found myself appreciating the sentiment of the song – and thinking ‘Dayum gurl, that chorus is catchy!’. Compare Playing With Numbers to Russia’s song, and it’s clear that Ireland has the authenticity and believable sentiment that Russia lacks. No doubt Molly will struggle to hit Polina’s heights, but if nothing else, I can happily say this: all is forgiven, Ireland, for that aesthetically-displeasing car crash of Copenhagen. 8 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 7.66

 

SERBIA
Beauty Never Lies by Bojana Stamenov

Serbia

Rory: I really do like Serbia this year. It was always a sure thing that Bojana was going to represent them – she obviously had the most sass up on that stage! It did seem a bit better in its original Serbian version, but it still has that captivating and empowering message behind it and for that, I’d like to applaud Miss Stabmyknife for her ability to draw us into her performance. I just hope first-time listeners can understand the same feeling on the night! 7 points.

Matt: Oh, a diva singing a huge anthem! Yes please, and thank you Serbia – you rarely disappoint. Bojana Stamenov just blows me away. Her voice is huge. Sure, the English version of the song is a little clichéd and I do prefer the original Serbian version, but it’s brilliantly crafted. It starts out slowly and quietly, then slowly builds, and at the 1:45 mark, the disco beat kicks in and Bojana grabs you by the hand and drags you onto the dance floor. It takes me to Eurovision heaven. Amazing. 10 points.

Jaz: Oh, Serbia. What has become of you? You were once a country who could be relied upon to provide beautiful, mystical and always classy Balkan ballads. Now, after a costume-related disaster and a year of Eurovision vacation (minus JESC) you’ve come back not so much with a bang as with a fart noise. Beauty Never Lies definitely stinks, IMO – not because of Bojana, whose voice, like the Wizard of Oz, is great and powerful. It’s not even due to the song itself, since music-and-melody-wise, it’s fine. But once Ceo Svet Je Moj became Beauty Never Lies, it dropped from the halfway range of my Top 40 ranking to the very bottom. The English rewrite of this song is dreadful, packed with lame lyrics that take power away from the song rather than boosting it. I don’t think a Eurovision song has ever come this close to actually making me vomit before. Shame on you, Serbia. 1 point for the melody + 2 points for Bojana = 3 points.

EBJ Jury Score: 6.66

 

 

That’s it for the first episode of Viennese Verdicts, folks. After five catty and complimentary reviews, the EBJ Jury standings are as follows:

1. Ireland (7.66)
2. Serbia (6.66)
3. France (6.33)
4. Austria (6.00)
5. Russia (5.66)

I’ll be revealing the EBJ Jury Top 40 in the final episode, mid-May. For now, 35 songs remain for us to comment on, and any one of them has the potential to sweep Miss Sterling off the top of the list, or bump Polina from the bottom. You’ve already witnessed how different fan opinions can be (Serbia certainly divided us!) so anything could happen.

For Part 2 of the Viennese Verdicts, I’m bringing you my thoughts on the entries from the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Iceland and Switzerland – with the added perspectives of an American Eurovision aficionado, and my mum. Yes, you read that right – Mrs. Jaz was roped into reviewing some of the 2015 competitors. And let me tell you, getting her to be honest was not a problem.

While you’re waiting (on the edge of your seats, I’m sure) for that, answer me this in the comments: how do your rankings of Ireland, Serbia, France, Austria and Russia stack up against the EBJ Jury’s? Who read your mind with their reviews, and who had you concerned for the state of their mental health? Sharing is caring, so let us know below!

 

Until next time…

nsig

 

PLAYLISTING | Celebrating Eurovision’s big six-zero with 60 of my musical highlights from every decade

Hello there. Long time, no see, if you consider a week-and-a-half a long time. Shockingly, that’s how much time has passed since my last post. Gasp!

Rest assured that I am a) still alive, and b) still unbelievably excited that the 60th Eurovision Song Contest is taking place next month. My excuse for the slackness = I’m at a hectic stage of life at the moment. Unfortunately, the week-and-a-half gap preceding this post has in no way prepared you for the bombardment of content I’ve got planned for the lead-up to Vienna. I’m warning you now to brace yourselves for those glitter bombs!

Another thing I should warn you about is this: the post you’re (hopefully) about to read is somewhat lengthy. Before you proceed, you might want to get comfortable and make sure you have food and water within reaching distance.

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Á la my previous national final-themed post, I’ve prepared another playlist – only this one is super-sized. Inspired by Eurovision’s Greatest Hits show (which I finally got a chance to watch the other day, and surprisingly, Herreys were my highlight) I’ve been wanting to pave the road to contest 60 with celebratory posts. Time is racing by like Dana International en route to a John Paul Gaultier sale, however. So, instead of the six top 10 posts I’d planned to put together for you (feat. my favourite Eurovision entries from each decade) I’ve had to lump them all together in one ginormous list.

Once I’d gotten this underway, I realised I didn’t want to be strict about it. I just wanted this post to be a compilation of musical highlights from the past sixty years of ESC epic-ness. Yes, it mostly consists of my favourite songs; but instead of being a ranked top 60, it’s now a random collection of the music that made me fall in love with the contest, and that makes me fall even harder every time I play it.

It was actually über-difficult for me to choose just sixty songs to feature, which is further proof of how musically momentous the contest has been to date. Please don’t check to see if there are sixty, as I may have “accidentally” let a few extras slip in (I always was terrible at maths).

I’ll stop waffling now and introduce, in no particular order – except chronological – 60+ musical highlights from contests past. Enjoy, and share some of your own favourites (or your thoughts on mine) in the comments below!

 

csr

  • Nel Blu Di Pinto Di Blu by Domenico Modugno (Italy 1958)
  • Dansevise by Grethe & Jørgen Ingmann (Denmark 1963)

En Gång I Stockholm by Monica Zetterlund (Sweden 1963) – I’ll admit, I kind of overlooked this entry for a long time. Many of the songs from Eurovision’s early years tend to blend into each other when I recap them, and so I don’t find many of them very memorable (or do I? I can’t remember. And that’s the problem). But when En Gång I Stockholm was resurrected during Melodifestivalen this year, and Monica Zetterlund became Monica Zetterlund feat. Sanna Nielsen…well, I swooned. I’ve included the spellbinding “duet” below, but you can check out Monica’s solo performance here.

  • Non Ho L’Éta by Gigliola Cinquetti (Italy 1964)
  • Tu Te Reconnaîtras by Anne-Marie David (Luxembourg 1973)
  • Eres Tú by Mocedades (Spain 1973)
  • Waterloo by ABBA (Sweden 1974)

Era by Wess & Dori Ghezzi (Italy 1975) – Italy can do no wrong in my eyes, a.k.a. to my ears when music’s involved. They are perpetually classy, and in this case, livened up a contest that was still attempting to break free of traditional, ballad-heavy restraints. This song is down-tempo too, but it was super current at the time, and remains catchy, funky and all sorts of bellissimo to this day. It’s one of the more timeless vintage tracks I’ve listed – make a few minor adjustments and give it to Wess & Dori 2.0, and I reckon it could fit in as nicely in Vienna ’15 as it did in Stockholm ’75.

  • Save Your Kisses For Me by Brotherhood of Man (UK 1976)
  • L’Oiseau Et L’Enfant by Marie Myriam (France 1977)
  • Rock Bottom by Lynsey de Paul & Mike Moran (UK 1977)
  • Dschinghis Khan by Dschinghis Khan (Germany 1979)

Hallelujah by Milk & Honey with Gali Atari (Israel 1979) – Who doesn’t have an appreciation of some kind for this entry? It’s the ultimate sing-along Eurovision song – in a world without Waterloo, at least – as the participants of the 1999 contest are well aware (if you recall, they formed a temporary supergroup at the end of the night, singing Hallelujah in a touching tribute to the victims of the Balkan war). It conveys a message without taking a cheesy approach, and starts small only to step up in key and crescendo until it reaches a satisfying, triumphant conclusion. Thanks to the combination of the song itself, and a simple but effective staging strategy, Israel took the top prize, and Hallelujah became one of Eurovision’s most recognisable winners. Hallelujah!

  • Cinéma by Paola (Switzerland 1980)
  • Making Your Mind Up by Bucks Fizz (UK 1981)
  • Ein Bisschen Frieden by Nicole (Germany 1982)
  • Hi by Ofra Haza (Israel 1983)

Främling by Carola (Sweden 1983) – Carola took to the ESC stage for the first time as a big-haired teenager in unflattering white pants (not that you can blame her for that…blame the 1980s). What worked in her favour on this first attempt was what would also work in her favour in 1991 and 2006: a cracking song, and THAT VOICE. There’s a reason the woman’s a superstar in Sweden (and in the estimation of many non-Swedish Eurovision fans like myself) and her star quality was oozing out of her pores as she charmed her way through the infectious Främling. Although I’d rank her winning song (also present on this playlist) a teensy bit higher, I do really, really love this. And I hate to repeat myself, but…THAT VOICE!

  • Džuli by Daniel (Yugoslavia 1983)
  • La Det Swinge by Bobbysocks (Norway 1985)
  • Gente Di Mare by Umberto Tozzi & Raf (Italy 1987)
  • Ja Sam Za Ples by Novi Fosili (Yugoslavia 1987)

Nur Ein Lied by Thomas Forstner (Austria 1989) – Before he became an infamous nul-pointer (undeservedly, in my opinion) Thomas Forstner had a rather fruitful trip to Eurovision, arriving with the superbly-80s ballad that is Nur Ein Lied and leaving with 5th place under his shiny lavender belt. For a song that has a title translating to ‘only a song’, this is a damn good one, and I’d argue it’s not only a song, seeing as it’s also one of my all-time favourites. I mean, it’s still a song, obviously, but…you know what I mean. I like everything about it, despite the fact that it’s not the prettiest example of German as a musical language, and that it works better as a studio song than as a live one.

  • Pað Sem Enginn Sér by Daniel (Iceland 1989)
  • Why Do I Always Get It Wrong? by Live Report (UK 1989)
  • Rock Me by Riva (Yugoslavia 1989)
  • Insieme: 1992 by Toto Cutugno (Italy 1990)

Bandido by Azúcar Moreno (Spain 1990) – Here’s an awesome entry that was overshadowed by technical difficulties. Amusing to watch as the ‘Spanish Backing Track Fiasco of 1990’ is – twenty-five years and many replays later – I can’t help wondering if the main reason anyone remembers Bandido is because of what happened when Azúcar Moreno tried to perform it. Take the incident out of the equation and you’re still left with a tempestuous, fabulously-ethnic performance of an energetic, up-tempo earworm. That alone should have cleared the way for Spain to reach an excellent position on the scoreboard, but with the added memorability factor of the monumental stuff-up, the duo secured their country’s best result since 1984. On reflection, they’re probably glad things didn’t run so smoothly.

  • Hajde Da Ludujemo by Tajči (Yugoslavia 1990)
  • Fångad Av En Stormvind by Carola (Sweden 1991)
  • Kan by Duo Datz (Israel 1991)

Olou Tou Kosmou I Elpida by Cleopatra (Greece 1992) – Any song that sounds like it was lifted from a Disney soundtrack is a winner with me. These sorts of songs aren’t often winners of Eurovision, so I don’t think that’s the most crowded carriage on this train of thought. But if you liked Zlata’s Gravity¸ chances are you will/already do like this banger from Greece. Cleopatra is a great live vocalist (I’m not referring to the Egyptian queen when I say that, although I’m sure she would’ve slayed at karaoke back in the day, presumably taking on Walk Like An Egyptian). She elevates the chorus of an already majestic song to even more majestic heights. I also love the way Greek sounds with this style of music.

  • Sva Bol Svijeta by Fazla (Bosnia & Herzegovina 1993)
  • Better The Devil You Know by Sonia (UK 1993)
  • Wir Geben ‘Ne Party by MeKaDo (Germany 1994)

To Nie Ja! by Edyta Górniak (Poland 1994) – I’m all for Ireland’s third-win-on-the-trot of ’94, but it could easily be argued that Poland should have been on top instead with their debut entry. Edyta, dressed in what looked like a nightgown (but she totally rocked it anyway), sang the absolute heck out of this quality ballad, putting more emotion into her performance than most Academy Award winners do into their statuette-winning portrayals. This song was built to show off a top-notch voice, and she had the goods. As much as I love it, I wouldn’t say it SHOULD have won – I prefer never to say that, instead opting for ‘I would have LIKED *insert song here* to have won’. But should you ask me if I think To Nie Ja! would have made a worthy winner, I will reply with a big ‘hell yeah!’. In case you were wondering.

  • Nocturne by Secret Garden (Norway 1995)
  • Se På Mig by Jan Johansen (Sweden 1995)
  • O Meu Coração Não Tem Cor by Lucia Moniz (Portugal 1996)
  • Minn Hinsti Dans by Paul Oscar (Iceland 1997)

Fiumi Di Parole by Jalisse (Italy 1997) – Surprise, surprise, it’s Italy again! What can I say? They’re one of my most-loved Eurovision countries, after all. And this stunner from Year Dublin is up there with my favourites of the forty they’ve competed with so far. I won’t ramble on about it too much, as I forced such gushing upon you recently in my Retro Ranking of 1997. I will say that it gives me extreme feels, and that I think it’s another timeless track that wouldn’t seem out of place competing in Eurovision next month (!), with a few 2015 tweaks. Italy pulls off ageless entries very well.

  • Hemel En Aarde by Edsilia Rombley (Netherlands 1998)
  • Karleken Är by Jill Johnson (Sweden 1998)
  • Where Are You? by Imaani (UK 1998)
  • Putnici by Dino & Beatrice (Bosnia & Herzegovina 1999)

Reise Nach Jerusalem by Sürpriz (Germany 1999) – Sürpriz by name and, I’m guessing, sürprized by nature, this group weren’t originally meant to represent Germany in 1999 (think of them as the Ann Sophie of the 90s). That honour went to Corinna May, whose preachy ballad was later discovered to have been released by someone else two years earlier. Corinna would have her time in the spotlight in 2002 (with an equally terrible song) but Sürpriz grabbed their own unexpected shot with both hands, taking the ethno-pop masterpiece Reise Nach Jerusalem to…well, Jerusalem. The song was penned by the dynamic duo of Ralph Siegel and Bernd Meinunger, and it’s one of their finest works – in four languages, no less (not that the likes of Todomondo and Sofi Marinova would be impressed by that).

  • My Star by Brainstorm (Latvia 2000)
  • Tell Me Who You Are by Malene Mortensen (Denmark 2002)
  • Od Nas Zavisi by Karolina (FYR Macedonia 2002)

Sanomi by Urban Trad (Belgium 2003) – The first time Belgium sent three minutes of a made-up language to Eurovision, they nailed it. I don’t think this song would be the same in any other tongue, existing or yet-to-exist. It’s memorable not just due to the imaginary factor, which you tend to forget about anyway once the melody draws you in, but also thanks to the mystical vibes of the music. And let’s not forget the nifty hand choreography of the verses/choruses (who can tell which part is which? It’s all part of the mysterious appeal). I don’t know about you, but whenever I listen to Sanomi, I feel compelled to do those hand movements. I also feel compelled to fist-pump the fact that Belgium beat Russia, because there’s no way t.A.T.u’s shrieking rendition of Ne Ver, Ne Bojsia deserved to come second. Third is a stat I’ve learnt to live with.

  • Monts Et Merveilles by Louisa (France 2003)
  • Keine Grenzen – Zadnych Granich by Ich Troje (Poland 2003)
  • Everyway That I Can by Sertab Erener (Turkey 2003)
  • Lane Moje by Željko Joksimović & Ad-hoc Orchestra (Serbia & Montenegro 2004)
  • Lejla by Hari Mata Hari (Bosnia & Herzegovina 2006)

The Fire In Your Eyes by Boaz (Israel 2008) – When they found out Dana International had composed and co-written this entry, the first reaction of many fans was horror. How dare she pen a ballad! But, while those people were lamenting the loss of a viva la diva, I was wondering how I’d break the news that I preferred this to Dana’s own winning song. While some find The Fire In Your Eyes boring, I find it breathtaking. It’s everything I want in a ballad: atmospheric and intriguing; not too repetitive and not at all lame; and the proud owner of a big, bold chorus. It’s basically Israel’s version of a Željko-brand Balkan ballad. It was my #1 song at the time, and probably still is my favourite entry from the Class of 2008. Oh, and Boaz’s vocals? Sublime (what could be seen beneath that silver waistcoat wasn’t bad either).

  • Bistra Voda by Regina (Bosnia & Herzegovina 2009)
  • Rändajad by Urban Symphony (Estonia 2009)
  • Ovo Je Balkan by Milan Stanković (Serbia 2010)
  • This Is My Life by Anna Bergendahl (Sweden 2010)

Love In Rewind by Dino Merlin (Bosnia & Herzegovina 2011) – I’ve never been sure what it is that’s so damn charming about this song. It was Dino Merlin’s third to represent Bosnia & Herzegovina (a virtual high-five to the first person to find the other two on this list) and it’s a foot-tapper, I know that much. It’s also a very interesting song, which is more than I can say about the eventual winner of 2011 (I hate to go on and on about Running Scared, but I still can’t comprehend its victory). Love In Rewind isn’t the kind of song I’m used to hearing outside of Eurovision, which is part of its charm. I’m not 100% certain what it’s all about even now – I mean, what’s with all the multiplication, Dino? – but it’s so cute, lyrically quirky and musically lovely that I can’t resist it.

  • Kuula by Ott Lepland (Estonia 2012)
  • Euphoria by Loreen (Sweden 2012)
  • Kedvesem by ByeAlex (Hungary 2013)
  • L’Essenziale by Marco Mengoni (Italy 2013)
  • O Mie by Aliona Moon (Moldova 2013

Undo by Sanna Nielsen (Sweden 2014) – As if I could’ve made a list of defining musical moments and left Sanna off it! Puh-lease. The woman was a Scandinavian goddess to me when she was still on Melodifestivalen attempt #4. So, eight years later, when she FINALLY managed to win and secure herself a spot on the Copenhagen set-list, I was the happiest Sannanator (?) on the planet. I’m pretty convinced I’d love Undo no matter who was singing it, but Miss Nielsen’s flawless vocals do contribute to my continuing obsession. Everything about the Sweden 2014 package gives me goosebumps (the piano tinkling to open? Check. The money note before the second chorus? Check. The fury when I noticed that someone left the stage door open during her semi performance? Check…). That’s when I know I’m onto a winner. Not necessarily an ESC winner, but a song that will stay with me and constantly remind me how freaking much I love the contest.

 

Well, if you’re still here and conscious, that means you’ve made it through my 60+ musical highlights, which could so easily have been 100+ highlights (be grateful it wasn’t). These are just a selection of the entries that have had an impact on me during my years as a rabid fan and frequent trips back in Euro-time.

Now, it’s only fair I shut up and give you the chance to compile your own lists (not necessarily as long as mine) that you better then share below, or else *shakes fist in your direction semi-threateningly*. Before another forty songs become part of ESC history, hit me up with your highlights from 1956-2014.

 

NEXT TIME: How you doin’, Vienna Verdicts? That’s what I’m calling my Eurovision reviews this year, by the way. My all-new EBJ Jury will be praising and bitching to their hearts’ content over the following four weeks, and it all kicks off in a few days’ time. Two Australians and an Irishman will be reviewing Russia, Austria, France, Ireland and Serbia…so anything could happen!

 

nsig

 

EBJ’S TOP 10…national finalists of the 2015 season (plus the rest of the best!)

Hi. I’m Jaz, I’m twenty-three years old, and I think I need to be admitted to national final rehab after the week I’ve had.

No, I haven’t been watching every single NF of 2014/15 back-to-back, only leaving the me-shaped crater in my mattress to get food and let the other occupants of my household know that I’m still alive. That would be crazy!

What I have done is listen to almost every single song entered in a 2014/15 national final, on and off for quite some days, in order to determine my favourites of the season. Subtract the reasonable-sized bunch I was already acquainted with (mostly those hailing from Scandinavia) and you’ll see how that’s a much less crazy thing to do. Still, I need the rehab. Just to make sure I’m re-energised enough to haul my butt out of bed for 3 x 3am Eurovision installments next month (!).

Those of you not currently receiving NF-induced therapy get to enjoy the fruits of my labor today, as I present my top 10* national final songs of the season just gone – plus the thirty-odd others that I would recommend you add to your must-hear playlist, if you haven’t heard them yet.

Hit me up with your personal preferences in the comments, and let me know if there are any gems I should give a second chance to (or third, or fourth…I’ve had an intensive time, guys).

 

* If I’m honest, it’s actually a top 11 (as if you wouldn’t have noticed). I got to the point where the prospect of relegating one more song to the ‘rest of the best’ pile was causing me physical pain, so I decided to throw the rulebook out the window and adopt the attitude of ‘my blog, my rules!’. And my rules dictate that a top 11, in a time of need, is a-ok. And now I’ll shut up and get on with said top 11.

 

My favourites, from A Dal to UMK (and quite a few finals in-between)!

Counting backwards for maximum suspense levels.

#11 | I’ll Be Fine by Molly Pettersson Hammar (DNQ, Sweden)

In what shall henceforth be known as The Swedish App Fiasco of 2015, lady-in-red Molly failed to even make the second chance round of Melodifestivalen, allegedly due to first-time-use issues with the voting app. Up until my ears were exposed to eventual winner Heroes, I was convinced the Land of Abba had let their best chance of Eurovision success go in this scandalous manner. Now, though I couldn’t be happier about Måns heading to Vienna, I still see/hear this song as a retro-flavoured masterpiece, performed with a level of diva-ness that Dana International could only dream of reaching.

 

#10 | Nefelibata by MNTHA (4th, Latvia)

Tracks like this – i.e. weird alt-pop songs – aren’t normally my cup of tea, but for some reason, I’m drinking them down like there’s no tomorrow at the moment. MNTHA’s high-pitched vocal on Nefelibata (which apparently means ‘cloud-walker’) adds delicacy to a song that makes you wonder where it’s going, even when you’re listening to it for the third time in a row. It’s an attention-grabber of the non-OTT kind, and I appreciate that very much.

 

#9 | S’të Fal by Lindita Halimi (3rd, Albania)

You might not expect feverish EDM to come out of Festivali I Këngës. Even if you did, you might not expect it to get such a good result. Lindita Halimi pulled out all the vocal gymnastic tricks she could muster (but failed to pull a pair of pants out of her wardrobe or use a hairbrush) and ended up bringing both of those things to the sometimes-stuffy FiK with S’të Fal. I really like the pace of this song, how edgy it is, how it builds, and how surprisingly well it works with a live orchestra.

 

#8 | Wechselt Die Beleuchtung by Laing (Result unknown, Germany)

You can always rely on Germany (‘always’ meaning ‘for the previous four or five years’) to provide a national final full of interesting, atypically-Eurovision (per the stereotypes) entries. The superior of the two songs Laing threw into the Unser Song Für Österreich ring, this one is dark, moody, and also cutting edge. It lends itself beautifully to the German language and comes armed with an über cool performance feat. a costume reveal and…desk lamps. Translate the title of the song, and that addition will make sense.

 

#7 | Human Beings by Karin Park (Result unknown, Norway)

The woman behind Margaret Berger’s I Feed You My Love decided to have a bash at representing Norway as singer and songwriter this year, and it made for a triumph – if not results-wise, then in musical magnificence. Who knew a song with such sentiment behind it could be so lacking in cheese? Human Beings has the same kind of cold beauty that captured Europe’s votes when M. Berg oozed it on the Malmö stage (sorry for that mental image). It’s a Karin Park trademark. How Human Beings didn’t make the MGP super-final is beyond me.

 

#6 | Glück by Alexa Feser (Result unknown, Germany)

What do you know, here’s Germany popping up in my top 10 11 again! And ich liebe es big time. I would like to direct all people who believe German to be a harsh language to Exhibit A: This Song, if Laing’s didn’t already convince them otherwise. Glück, which according to Google Translate = ’good fortune’ (which means it probably actually translates to ’unripe bananas’ or something) is slow-burn piano pop at its finest – pretty, calming and authentic.

 

#5 | Frozen Silence by Fahrenhaidt (DNQ, Germany)

I swear, this is the last German national finalist I’m going to prattle on about. Yoda would say hauntingly beautiful this is, but I’m going to say that it’s hauntingly beautiful – so I guess Yoda and I are in agreement. Like Nefelibata, Frozen Silence isn’t a big, brash, in-yo-face number, but it draws you in and holds your attention nonetheless. This could have been a spellbinder on the stage in Vienna (though in the scheme of things, I’m grateful for the more up-tempo Black Smoke).

 

#4 | Det Rår Vi Inte För by Behrang Miri feat. Victor Crone (DNQ, Sweden)

I’ve been listening to this more or less non-stop since it got booted from Melfest – in favour, mind you, of a performance that incorporated a selfie stick (though in Samir & Viktor’s case, it was technically a groupie stick). Rap interspersed with vocals isn’t to everyone’s taste, but something about this – the anthemic atmosphere, the drums, the hilarious way Behrang says ‘ehhh’ at the beginning, perhaps – gets me every time. I find it particularly powerful when I’m struggling with a workout, as it has an amazing ability to push me towards the finish line. #forreals.

 

#3 | Crossroads by Satin Circus (2nd, Finland)

This. One. HURT. I thought Satin Circus had UMK ’15 in the bag with their irresistible pop-rock singalong song for le youth…but alas, PKN pipped them. Crossroads came a close second to Aina Mun Pitää, and as a result, I can’t listen to it without tearing up and wailing ‘If only!’. But I continue to listen to it anyway, because it is the bomb, and in my Eurovision fantasies it goes down an absolute treat in Austria. Tonight we CAN be young!

 

#2 | Fjaðrir by SUNDAY (5th, Iceland)

Every year, Iceland passes up the chance to send something that’s more Björk than bland; i.e. a piece of quirky pop perfection that even the haters would have to admit is unique. This year, SUNDAY’s Fjaðrir (or Feathers, in its slightly-less-awesome English incarnation) was that sacrifice. I freaking LOVE it – it’s weird and mystical and so contemporary it shouldn’t even exist yet (I’m not exactly sure what I mean by that, so don’t ask). The song makes much better use of its three minutes than Unbroken does, and she-SUNDAY’s voice is perfect for the style. Brilliant stuff.

 

#1 | Ne Engedj El by Kati Wolf (Result unknown, Hungary)

Leaving What About My Dreams? – and her poofy-haired, satin-clad self – behind, Kati Wolf made a triumphant return to A Dal in 2015…at least as far as I’m concerned. The A Dal judges were more like ‘whatevs’ when it came to the crunch, failing to put the Wolfster and her emotive ballad through to the final four. Ne Engedj El (Don’t Let Me Go) would have been my ideal representative for Hungary though, because, unlike Boggie’s cry for peace that leaves me cold, I can feel the feelings Kati invests in it – feelings that were well-portrayed in her performance.

 

The rest of the best (according to moi)…

Get these babies on your music machine of choice STAT, people. Unless you hate them all, in which case just do your own thing. Whatever. I can’t help you improve your terrible taste.

AUSTRIA: Absolutio by Johann Sebastian Bass (5th)
BELARUS: Supernova by Janet (14th)
CYPRUS: Stone In A River by Hovig (4th)
DENMARK: Suitcase by Anne Gadegaard (2nd), Tæt På Mine Drømme by Julie Bjerre (3rd), Manjana by Babou (5th)
ESTONIA: Burning Lights by Daniel Levi (2nd), Superlove by Elisa Kolk (3rd), Exceptional by The Blurry Lane (8th)
FINLAND: Hold Your Colours by Solju (4th), Ostarilla by Shava (8th), Mustelmat by Siru (DNQ), Love It All Away by Eeverest (DNQ)
HUNGARY: Fire by Ív (Result unknown), Mesmerize by Passed (Result unknown), Gyémánt by Vera Tóth (DNQ), Ősz Utca by Gergő Szakács (DNQ)
ICELAND: Fyrir Alla by Cadem (6th), Aldrei of Seint by Regína Ósk (DNQ)
ITALY: Fatti Avanti Amore by Nek (2nd), Adesso e Qui (Nostalgico Presente) by Malika Ayane (3rd)
LATVIA: Take Me Down by Markus Riva (2nd)
MACEDONIA: Brod Što Tone by Tamara Todevska (2nd)
MALTA: Rush by Christabelle (2nd), Breakaway by Glen Vella (3rd), Stop Haunting Me by Raquel (DNQ)
NORWAY: Next To You by Jenny Langlo (Result unknown)
ROMANIA: Superman by Lara Lee (7th), Chica Latina by Aurelian Temișan feat. Alexa (9th)
SWEDEN: Jag Är Fri (Manne Leam Frijje) by Jon Henrik Fjällgren (2nd), Make Me (La La La) by Dinah Nah (12th), Där Och Då Med Dig by Emelie Irewald (DNQ)

 
That’s all of the NF-ness I’m going to provide for now, ladies and gents. But rest assured that after Vienna, I’ll be taking a look at which national finalists could – and maybe should – have been sent to Eurovision, based on the results of the songs that were (á la this post from last year).

Don’t forget to tell me your standouts of the 2014/15 NF season. I’ll open up my can of DO IT NOW, FOR THE LOVE OF LORDI!!! if I have to.

 
Until next time…

 

nsig

 

EBJ PRESENTS…Would You Rather: The Eurovision Edition!

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

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

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

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

You know what I’m talking about.

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

wyrf

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

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

 

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

 

Ell_and_Nikki_s_Fire_CurtainAnggun_s_Wind_Machine

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

 

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

 

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

 

wyr2

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

 

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

 

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

 

wyr3

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

wyr4

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

 

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

 

Loreen_s_Crab_DanceKurt_Calleja_s_foot_swivel

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

 

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

 

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

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

 
nsig

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Connect:
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

 

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

 

nsig

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The top 10

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

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

 

My other favourites

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

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

 

The ones that are keeping me confused!

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

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

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

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

34. France

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

nsig

 

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