Grand Final: Awards and Draw Analysis

We have granted awards to the semi participants the night before their respective semis, and of course we will do exactly the same with the finalists! Six songs have not received their prizes yet, and tonight we will change that. Get ready for the Grand Final Awards.
ITALY: Award for the greenest stage
It takes some courage to stage your song in a garden, and to follow the theme even in the performer’s outfit. Or a level of “fuck it”, cause this could work well or fail gloriously.
SWEDEN: Award for the biggest lack of a guitar
Whenever I hear this song I hear an acoustic guitar. And then I am surprised there is none.
GERMANY: Award for the weirdest headdress
I had my manga phase a few years ago and I am usually not being mean against dressing different on purpose, but this is weird even by manga standards.
FRANCE: Award for the biggest fall
I have not even seen a full performance of him yet, but all the rehearsal bloggers stated he was terrible and suddenly this winning contender got relegated to “maybe Top 10”. That’s a rather big difference…
SPAIN: Award for the weirdest move
I can see the point in keeping the stuff from your video and all that, but whoever in this delegation thought that falling to the ground onstage is a good idea… it’s not.
UNITED KINGDOM: Award for the least offensive song
Usually Denmark has this one booked, but this year’s effort was so bland and average that this became an offense in its own right. With the UK though, there really isn’t a way to dislike it.
And now, let’s get to something completely different and much, much more important. After a long waiting time robbing us of our sleep, SVT finally finished the draw last night. Time to overanalyze!
01. BELGIUM – Screamed “OPENER” when she took first half. When doing my own order, however, I wasn’t so sure anymore as it’s usable in many places. Should work well though.
02. CZECHIA –  Poor Gabriela doesn’t benefit from this… I would have her placed at the end to bring down energy a bit in a Poland-like slot. She must have barely qualified then.
03. NETHERLANDS – This is another odd one. Douwe has the type of song that works great as a fresh breath of air, but it’s not really a good one to come on so early. However, there are not too many spots for him late in the half (I had him on #5), so it makes sense I guess.
04. AZERBAIJAN – I would want to have her over as soon as possible, so this makes sense. As it wouldn’t be a good opener, this is possibly the earliest they could give it.
05. HUNGARY – I was sceptic when reading the order, but it does kind of make sense. Hungary isn’t that easy to place as it doesn’t seem to benefit from uptempo nor ballad predecessors, which is why I had it as another possible opener.
06. ITALY – As long as she wouldn’t battle with a favourite, Francesca was probably going to be fine from any slot. It’s not exactly helped by the draw, but also not hindered.
07. ISRAEL – They missed an oppoortunity by not matching him with Douwe Bob, but that’s as good as any place for him. I assume they would have preferred a faster song before Hovi, but he worked well after an even slower one in the semi too.
08. BULGARIA – It would have worked even better if Israel wasn’t getting started in the last minute, but this is placed about where I’d have put it. It would also make for a good starter, but that slot is Belgian-occupied.
09. SWEDEN – Bulgaria provides a lot of energy and has quite a tech-y feeling especially with the sci-fi theme, so they did well in setting themselves up here. Comes across as a nice break after the rather hectic ending of Bulgaria.
10. GERMANY – I am not sure what to make of this. Coming after Sweden, the mood of the show turns rather dark at this point. I assume that ARD wanted a late draw, because honestly it would have fitted better a bit earlier and not sandwiched between two favourites.
11. FRANCE – Providing a very nice uplifting song after Germany’s mysterious darkness. I think they got a pretty nice buildup here, and it’s probably the best they could ask for in this half.
12. POLAND – With Sweden, France and Australia sharing the last five spots in this half, it was always clear there needs to be someone to separate them a bit. Poland got chosen for this unfortunate task, while I’d have taken Czechia in front of France (and France and Australia back to back – I doubt one would have hurt the other).
13. AUSTRALIA – I was rather confused at the choice of building up Australia with Poland, as both are slow and not very uplifting. But then they announced that the break would be before Dami and it made much more sense. I still think it would have been better back-to-back with France or with an uptempo separating them though.
14. CYPRUS – This is a brilliant spot for the Cypriots as Poland and Australia really bring the energy down. Everyone who is desperate for some power will love this. However, I’m surprised to see them so early. Not the best semi result?
15. SERBIA – I am not sure if this works after Cyprus. Not that they steal each other’s votes, but Sanja’s different kind of energy may be a little overshadowed by her predecessor.
16. LITHUANIA – Donny was going to be fine everywhere as long as he doesn’t have the favourites too close. He was probably happy the moment he chose second half, and he’s placed well enough to do okay.
17. CROATIA – Nina has quite a good setup with Donny in front of her, as everyone will be a little bored by his very average stage act. It’s obvious she’s mainly building up for Russia, but didn’t get too bad a draw herself.
18. RUSSIA – The rule for Sergey is probably easy: The calmer his predecessor is and the less special effects they use the better for him. The ideal song for him would probably be Czechia, but as they’re in different halves, Croatia was about as good as it gets. And I assume that being rather early may help a little, as Jamala or Iveta can’t steal his show.
19. SPAIN – I don’t really get this one to be honest. It’s probably supposed to act as a more charming and less calculated uptempo, but it’s simply not good enough to be sandwiched between two strong acts. I’d have placed her right after Australia.
20. LATVIA – This worked good as an opener in the semi and it will work well after Spain. Spain gets pretty messy in the chorus, with a lot of musical action going on, while Latvia starts very toned down and introverted which is a good contrast. I wonder if the break before it will actually help or hinder it.
21. UKRAINE – That’s the one I don’t get. When I did my own order I tried to keep her, Latvia and Armenia spread out as they all are rather electronic and modern. I assume they won’t really steal each others votes, but I doubt it works as well as it could.
22. MALTA – There’s hardly a really bad spot for Malta in the second half, but they didn’t get a brilliant one either. Malta coming right after Ukraine probably has the viewers still stunned. However those who don’t like Jamala may be relieved by the contrast.
23. GEORGIA – Quite a good one. We haven’t had a powerful uptempo song since the break and energy is not at ist heighest after Malta, so this is a good choice. I had expected them to get an earlier slot, which makes me wonder if they did better than expected in the semi.
24. AUSTRIA – That’s the second best possible draw for Austria in my opinion. Everyone who will be alienated by Georgia will get a breath and some calming sweetness in this. I think, however, this effect would have been even bigger with Ukraine in front of it. Try it out, it works brilliantly, especially as Loin d’Ici is musical antidepressiva.
25. UNITED KINGDOM – To be honest, this may be late but not exactly helped by what comes around it. Austria is providing a not too different mood, and the impact of the UK may not be too high right before Armenia. I get the impression they were mainly building up to Iveta here.
26. ARMENIA – This is another one that seemed quite natural to me. It leaves everyone pretty stunned and therefore isn’t something you wanna follow, but it definitely is something to go out with a bang. And by having the UK in front of it, the impact may even be improved because of the difference between the two.

2nd Semifinal: Award Ceremony + Predictions

We have given out awards for the first semifinal to introduce predictions and review the last developments again, and have already been asked if and when the same thing is going online for the second semifinal. Of course we will do it, and here you go: Second semifinal, prediction and awards!

Latvia: Award for the most wearable outfit
He may have to share it with Freddie actually. But I like leather jackets, so if I had to choose one to wear in everyday life, my choice would definitely be Justs’s.

Poland: Award for the most strings on stage
I doubt I have seen many entries with three violinists and a cellist that are actually on stage. Maybe that’s the way it was done in mediaeval Poland?

Switzerland: Award for the worst hair and dancing

How can she think this is a good idea?

Israel: Award for the best bitchfight-starting
Cause you may be a star in the Netherlands, but you will never be a star somewhere else. Also: Bonus Award for sparklyness!

Belarus: Award for the best PR stunt
Nobody in that delegation was ever believing they could perform with living wolves and naked. But damnit Belarus, you showed us how to get attention your way…

Serbia: Award for the biggest styling improvement

versus

Or: How to stop looking like a parody of yourself and look like a serious human being instead.

Ireland: Award for the most un-fitting lighting
He doesn’t only sing about sunlight, it’s also an upbeat, positive-vibes song! You just don’t stage those dark! Or to quote Shi: “Ireland’s sunlight needs to replace a bulb.”

(FYR) Macedonia: Award for the oldest song
Nevermind San Turkey’s (failed) retro attempt, or Russia’s datedness, Austria’s Alizée reject or Moldova’s mid-2000’s dance song. This sounds like a slightly dated 1990’s entry.

Lithuania: Award for the cheapest Justin Bieber Ripoff
Boy, just because a Baltic Beaver is popular a Baltic Bieber won’t work. Especially cause there may not be too many teen girls voting. Pick a target audience actually watching Eurovision next time, Donny!

Australia: Award for the most annoying vocal acrobatics
I know this is a somewhat popular singing style, but in the amount, key and volume she does it in, it sounds like someone needs to go out there and rescue her. Or rescue me.

Slovenia: Award for the most idiotic staging decision
Now many claim that this never had a chance from the beginning, but when it came out, I liked it in a Soluna Samay way. A breath of fresh air with an actual band and stuff. And now they take the main selling point of an entry low on them away. Thanks for nothing.

Bulgaria: Award for the biggest disappointment
All season long even. First the disappointment of If Love Was A Crime compared to Na Inat. And then the dress, and the Vilija-tribute dancing which doesn’t work. This was best when all we knew about it was that it will be Poli Genova.

Denmark: Award for the laziest song
Not only did they deliberately try to make it as average as possible, they also… got inspired by Helene Fischer of all people. Nice try, Denmark. Well, actually terrible try, Denmark.

Ukraine: Award for the most non-understandable song
Okay, I try not to trash this song too much, because I know it has its fans and I simply don’t get it. But who thought this would be perfect for a fun saturday night?

Norway: Award for the coldest production
Apparently this is wanted (and it makes sense when the song is called Icebreaker) but it’s cold. Very cold. To the point I find it soulless and repulsive.

Georgia: Award for the naughtiest lyrics
“Night will come and so will the sin”. I like naughty lyrics.

Albania: Award for the most forgettable song
Can you remember anything else than “That’s why I love YOUUUUUUU”?

Belgium: Award for the coolest beat
Too many songs with dancy beats sound similar, forcing you to dance by vibrating your body in the rhythm. While this one doesn’t make you dance but makes you want to dance.

Well, there we are, 18 more awards given out. 10 can stay, 8 must go – but who? I glouriously failed in the first semifinal, so let’s see if I can do better this time.

SURE QUALIFIERS
Australia (unfortunately)
Latvia
Serbia
Ukraine (unfortunately as well)
Bulgaria
Norway

UNSURE QUALIFIERS
Georgia (but it really should)
Belgium
Poland
Israel

UNSURE NON-QUALIFIERS
Lithuania
Denmark
FYR Macedonia

SURE NON-QUALIFIERS
Switzerland
Belarus
Ireland
Slovenia
Albania

1st Semifinal: Award Ceremony (plus predictions)

With our review series done and the second rehearsals history, it is time to look at the first semifinal again. We have, after all, not talked about rehearsals or predictions yet! I’m here to change that for you and give Music For Europe’s predictions and awards. Awards? Yes, awards for everyone actually!

Okay, some of them might not be winning in a category you actually want to win. But hey, should’ve thought about that before you picked that song or staging!

FINLAND: Award for the least Finnish sounding Finnish entry of all times
Cause nothing screams “FINLAND!” more than a third-class attempt at a summer hit.

GREECE: Award for the best (Pontic?) Greek Rap part of the year
Which is like being given an award for being the best country beginning with G and ending with reece, but I couldn’t find any category with competition that Greece would win.

MOLDOVA: Award for the most awkward language change
Cause it totally makes sense Moldova sings in French, of course, because logic.

HUNGARY: Award for the most anthemic song
Forget Ira Losco, this is the true “bigger than Europe” song. And we need an anthem, don’t we?

CROATIA: Barbara Dex Award

Any questions?

NETHERLANDS: Award for the most American song
The Netherlands seem to have that one booked. Are you still not over New York or something?

ARMENIA: Award for the sexiest outfit

Nuff Said.

SAN MARINO: Award for the creepiest song
Cause nothing screams “CREEP!” more than a middle-aged man singing these lyrics in a dark area. And the scream of the backing in the first verse doesn’t help at all.

RUSSIA: Award for the most impressive staging
I assume they have to distract from the fact the song is 10 years old, but hey, it works.

My favourite staging moment of the last years for sure.

CZECHIA: Award for the slowest song
I know some of you celebrate that, and I am impressed by her voice too, but couldn’t it be a little faster? The slowness makes me lose interest every time…

CYPRUS: Award for the best faking of a rock song
Cause we all know that is Swedish pop at its best, just that they replaced synths with guitars. And it works better than it should, really.

AUSTRIA: Award for the sweetest entry of possibly all times
Imagine a calm meadow with unicorns on it and a ton of beautiful flowers in the sunshine, drenched in sugar and honey. This is about how sweet this looks and sounds.

ESTONIA: Award for the most useless staging choice
The voice is deep and dark and awesome, the song is catchy and awesome as well. Just what the hell happened to that staging? Especially as they once had it right. Afraid to win?

CORRECTION: After seeing it on stage, I think it worked for me. Jüri’s movements though…

AZERBAIJAN: Award for the worst vocals
Hit your votes, girl. Any other country would bomb with that, but she’ll probably still Q cause Azerbaijan.

MONTENEGRO: Award for the most robbed song
Providing the authenticity and power Cyprus lacks, and yet only the Cypriots will qualify. Well, they’re used to it by now.

ICELAND: Award for the darkest stage
Was Iceland’s screen so expensive that there was no money left to pay for the lights? Well, it fits the song I guess, but seeing Greta from time to time might not be a bad thing.

BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA: Award for most useless prop
Deen & Dalal already didn’t manage to connect in the video, I’m not sure if you should put barbed wire between them. (Even though it does seem to improve their connecting)

MALTA: Award for weirdest dancing

(thanks, Jordy)
Because that may be expected from Moldova by now, but Malta? And how the hell does he even do that?

Well, those were the 18 awards to be given out today. But what about those ten that everybody actually wants to win? The ticket to the finals? Well, let’s have a look then… MFE predictions are coming your way!

SURE QUALIFIERS:
Russia
Armenia
Netherlands
Iceland
Czechia
Cyprus

UNSURE QUALIFIERS:
Malta
Austria
Hungary
Estonia

UNSURE NON-QUALIFIERS:
Azerbaijan
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Croatia

SURE NON-QUALIFIERS:
Finland
Greece
Moldova
San Marino
Montenegro (undeserved!)

 

 

Final Review x4: Malta, Belgium, UK and Russia

 

DISCLAIMER: I have not watched any rehearsal videos of these except Russia, so I don’t actually know how they staged it. It’s getting important with full videos out now, and I won’t do so to not affect my judgement.

Today, at the day of second rehearsals and a week later than originally planned (yeah I suck at deadlines, sue me) we have arrived at the final quadruple review episode. We will start off with something bigger than Europe, go on to two eternal problem-childs with VRT and BBC and end with the great favourite. Here’s Malta, Belgium, United Kingdom and Russia.

Malta: Ira Losco – Walk On Water

Malta always tends to get more attention than their usually dreadful selection shows deserve, but this time they have gone to an excessive amount that I am sure was staged from the beginning. A returner (and quite a successful one!) doing with her song what Ira did is somehow odd, and I feel like she knew she was going to win with any decent song and trying to get some extra attention. Well, it worked I guess…

Okay, so this is what they described as “bigger than Europe”. The music is somehow gone during the song, multiple times. It kind of sounds like someone tried to get a maximum effect with using his instrument as little as possible, as the whole song is basically carried by Ira’s voice. I’m actually glad I am not listening to the karaoke version, because I guess it would be even more horribly boring there. I can’t even say why, but somehow it reminds me of Bulgaria and Australia blended together, but is worse than both of them, by far. Australia is better at going big and showing off vocals, while Bulgaria actually provides us with some song structure and music instead of a backdrop for a voice.

A voice that I am pretty confident she can pull this off, by the way. Ira Losco is probably experienced and professional enough to deliver a nice performance on a Eurovision stage, and that’s what will be needed. If she does not give a 100% on point performance of the song, this stands no chance at all. You’ll need to be perfect, Ira, A-OK won’t do the trick here. I assume that they also went for a “bigger than Europe” staging built around Ira, which is kind of all you can do with that, but I’m not sure if that’ll do the trick, to be honest. The whole combination has been around too much, and while I believe that the fans of this style will be enough to take her to the final together with impressed juries, I think she’ll sink in the final. After all, only Jesus could walk on water, and for me, it’s no more than 4/10.

Belgium: Laura Tesoro – What’s The Pressure

Usually, the Belgian entries are dominated by the VRT-RTBF two-year-pattern. While the latter tends to send very modern entries and do well with it, the former is mainly known for bad songs and even weirder stagings. Given that it was a Flemish year, we were not too optimistic for the Belgians, but then again VRT had their moments as well (Tom Dice, anyone?). How about this year?

Interesting to hear such a funky intro, and interesting to have it in a song sung by someone who was probably not born yet when funk was a thing. The whole song is challenging San Marino for the most disco song of the year, and while it’s probably losing that vote, it’s obviously the better one. The bassline, as Queen-sounding as it is, is really making you move, and the brass sections make it somewhat standing out. Add a catchy melody to that in the chorus, and there you go. If this song doesn’t make you move, I don’t know what could, really.

One problem I can see with it is Laura’s voice – I like it, but towards the end of the song she starts sounding a little shaky to me. Quite understandable given the huge amount of dancing they do, but still, it could be a problem if it gets tight. The video looks like they’ll go for the retro vibe the song already has, and everything else would be a huge mistake. The song is calling for a colourful and glittery approach and I am sure the Belgians have done exactly that. And finally, nobody really expects that much from her, while she can close the semi with a song that leaves everybody with a smile and give it her best – what’s the pressure for her, so to say? I have a good feeling about this, and I award 6/10.

United Kingdom: Joe and Jake – You’re Not Alone

From Belgium to the UK, who doesn’t even get it right every other year. While they seemed to have find a working way to do things in 2014 (and just fucked up the staging instead of fucking up everything) they went back to their old bad self last year when Molly didn’t give them the desired result. This year, a new approach. Again. Did it help?

Not sure to be honest. This song makes it kind of hard for me to say anything about it, because it feels pretty soulless to me. At least from what I can hear, it’s pretty well executed. The slow drums in the chorus are not too bad, as I generally like that, but keeping them throughout the second verse as well doesn’t really work. Overall, it has a bit a “songwriter/producer 101” feeling, as if someone tried to teach you how to make a pop song. They’re just following the steps in the book a little too much, quite similar to Donny Montell or the Danes. At least the involvement of acoustic instruments makes it feel a lit less plastic-y than Denmark.

It does help that both of them look quite charming, and that they seem to be enjoying themselves. And that’s what they should stage it like, as two guys making music and having fun doing it. But knowing it’s the UK, they will probably feel the need to gimmick it up and kill any chances of this song in the process, which would be a pity. Not because the song is particularly good, but because for once the UK managed not to make any major mistakes before Eurovision Week, and it’d be a nice change to see them keep not doing any. However, given that the BBC is responsible for it, it’s also likely that “You’re not alone, we’re in this together” will sound like the artists reassuring the audience that they’re not happy either and feel for the listener and watcher. Well, for now you haven’t fucked up yet, Britain, and while I would usually punish you for the averageness of the song, that’s actually a compliment when you’re involved. Therefore, I give you 5/10.

Russia: Sergey Lazarev – You Are The Only One

Oh Russia. Throwing money at it until they win, then get a period of not really trying and accidentally producing the best entry of your history, and then throw money at it again. As the booing somewhat stopped, Sergey Lazarev finally dared to step onto the Eurovision stage, and he did in a manner that blew many minds away and made him the instant favourite, but… rightfully so?

While there have been some complaints about it, I really enjoy the dark beginning and gradual buildup. And unlike some others, they found the time to make an effort so that this is a piece of music and not a blend of noise. I’ve heard so many chorus parts by now that wash into one big load of noise that this is very appreciated. And the attention to details generally seems to be quite big in this one, with the panned arp that kind of follows its own rhythm and such stuff. And of course, the melody is insanely catchy. However, there’s also quite a bit of Eurovision-by-number elements and the fact that this could have been released at any point in the last 10-15 years. I wouldn’t necessarily call it dated, as it doesn’t sound out of place in 2016, but there’s definitely no innovation in it.

This was always going to live off its impressive visuals, which are both futuristic (to make up for the years this song comes too late to be innovative musically?) and completely unconnected to the song. But then again, who will notice? It’s an effort to impress not only Sergey’s (beautiful) only one, but also or mainly the viewer. And in my opinion that shows. I could now go on about the vocals, the lyrics or whatever, but the main point speaking against Russia is, in my opinion, that this is the definition of trying too hard. It’s so obvious that they’re out to impress that I kind of don’t want to vote for it just to punish this sooo obvious approach. Nevertheless, I can see why it’s a fav and give 7/10. 

So, after we are done with all the reviewing, let Eurovision Madness begin, and may the best song win! We see you tuesday on the Music For Europe twitter account 😉 (@musicforeurope)

Review XVI: Switzerland, Montenegro, Greece

Late last night, the so far lowest score overall was given out. Now we come to a trio that may get even worse scores if we follow fan polls, but I already have to disappoint you: I like one of those three. The country of cheese, Lys Assia and Music for Europe, the country of weirdness and balkan ballads and the country of eternal success await us. Let’s go to Switzerland, Montenegro and Greece.

Switzerland: Rykka – The Last Of Our Kind

Switzerland has not always been the most successful nation, to say things diplomatically. After hosting and winning the first ESC ever, which secured them their spot in Eurovision history, not much has been speaking in the Swiss favour lately. And so, the only Swiss that can be sure to have her appearance in the final every year remains Lys Assia. After a Canadian gave Switzerland their last victory, the homeland of this blog decided to try the same with Swiss-Canadian Rykka this year.

The sound is a little… weird. Maybe you have seen Overthinking It’s blend with Star Wars, and it kind of sounds like that inspired the sound of the song. There’s a bunch of space synths, which is something that can turn out great if used well and very annoying otherwise. Somehow it’s rather annoying here. And the drums – when present – are similarly hyperactive, giving the song a weirdly hectic feeling that doesn’t suit the singing at all. And of course, the main problem it has is that it sounds like your average radio song, and there’s really not much making it stand out.

Actually, one thing stood out in the NF, but not exactly on the good side. The whole performance is very offkey. In a voice that sounds like she’s dying soon. Honestly, this makes me wonder what exactly made nobody realize those issues in the selection. Rykka’s styling is far from my style, so I am not sure if I should be the one judging it, but the way this is staged and she looks, I am somehow in doubt that anyone will remember the song as something else than “the girl who failed to hit a note”. And can’t handle a mic, apparently. The way she sings the first syllable without anyone being able to hear it is something to laugh if it wasn’t so terribly wrong. As a Swiss myself, I am not looking forward to this performance and dare to say we have fallen to pre-Anouk/Joan-Netherlands levels of hopelessness. Try again, SRF – this only gets 2/10.

Montenegro: Highway – The Real Thing

For Montenegro, there have basically been two scenarios: they send something really weird that I like and fail to qualify or they send balkan by the numbers stuff and do reasonably well. With the rest of the Balkans back, it looks like they decided to leave that to Bosnia and Macedonia and go compete with Cyprus and Georgia for the rock vote.

Well, I am totally a member of the rock vote audience. This is an interesting blend of multiple styles – I can hear some straight forward rock (even with a little pop-punk-ish stuff in it), a bit of electro support, a lot that I like to put it briefly. But the problem, apart from alienating potential voters who don’t have an access to this kind of music, is that the parts of the song tend to feel a little disconnected, especially the calmer part right before the chorus. This song is basically all over the place between straight forward guitar riffs, electro-rock, the buildup thingy and back to the start again. I personally like that a lot, but it’s likely it will push the average viewer off a bit.

They also compete with Georgia in the category of “Who can get away with the most obvious display of sexuality in the lyrics”, and I like that as well. Judge yourself: “When I came to your smell on me” vs. “Inside me, come a little closer”. The rest, I’ll leave up to you. If you look at the video, you can already suspect a dark staging with some bright lights, and it really is the only way to go for Montenegro. (Yes, I am aware it’s the one they took). I fear again that it’s not gonna be a huge vote-grabbehough, just because of the weirdness of the whole thing. It’s like Aina Mun Pitää: if you take a song that’s not exactly “made” for it to Eurovision, it needs to be really, really good or the average viewer and jury member probably won’t really get it. Can they get their vibe across on a Eurovision stage? I hope so, and if they do, here are my 8/10!

Greece: Argo – Utopian Land

If there is one country that will always make it to the final, it’s probably Greece or Russia. But as the latter already failed at that once (1996) that leaves the Greek, who only missed ’99 due to bad results. However, this year, the general consensus seems to be that this will (finally?) be the year where the Greek final-train comes to a halt. Rightfully so?

The song choice is certainly a little bit odd, but I don’t think this is as doomed as some want it to be. The first thing I notice is how catchy the hook is, and that apart from the ethnic elements the whole thing has not much sounds in it. Which is quite well and fitting for this type of song. I know it breaks the golden rule of no rapping in Eurovision, but as the jury power has been broken a little bit and it is Greece we speak about – it would be a major surprise to see Greece fucking up really badly in televote results – I see no real reason why this shouldn’t stand a chance at qualifying. It surely will require another borderliner to fuck up, but we know Greece can push even questionable entries above the line.

I think the (Pontic) Greek parts work quite well, and the English chorus can make it more memorable – a reverse Watch My Dance so to say. It actually reminds me a bit of that one, as it’s once again a rather dark thing changing singer, mood and language for the chorus. Its maion problems for appealing to me are the idiotic lyrics – “with the rise of the rising sun”, anyone? – and the fact they went in a different direction with the staging than I hoped. It’s still more understandable than Jamala’s language mix (thanks to the chorus being English), and I don’t think it’ll do as bad as some say. I give the Greek a 5/10.

Next time, we do an even larger quadruple review, which will end this series just(s) in time for Eurovision week. Don’t forget to join for the four remaining ones: Malta, Belgium, the United Kingdom, and last but not least the big favourite, Russia!

Review Part XV: Denmark, Australia, Ireland

Yeah, I know, I’ve been slacking off lately with the reviews. The highlight of it was that today I spent about an hour searching my glasses and not finding them in time I was supposed to review songs. But I promise you that somehow we still make it before Eurovision week. Today’s late episode brings the land of MOR, the land down under and the land of celtic ornaments together. Welcome Denmark, Australia and Ireland.

Denmark: Lighthouse X – Soldiers of Love

Denmark is also known as the country that mostly does well and somettimes extremely well without anyone really knowing why, and occasionally fucks up a lot and everyone does know why. Basically, they’re Eurovision’s average kid doing reasonably well without anyone caring, until he occasionally delivers an embarrassing moment or turns up at the school dance with the school beauty and nobody knows how or when that happened. Of course, Denmark would never select anything weird or so, and they kept to their recipe this year.

Denmark decided that last year’s effort stood out a little too much and found an even blander song. It’s still more or less the same thing – a bunch of boys looking not too bad singing a pop song – but they decided that it was time to use an incredibly average arrangement and production as well and (probably accidentally) turned the whole thing into an English version of a Helene Fischer song. Except that Helene’s work usually has a little more energy in it, but that might be alienating potential voters! I definitely admire the amount of averageness in this song, cause that must have been hard to achieve.

The staging is remarkable by basically being non-existent, so they kept the theme of averageness. Even in the lyrics. “Take my hand and never let go” and “step for step we make a new start”. One must be the most overused line in love songs of all times, the other was likely in their 2011 entry. The only way they could have turned this into a more average Eurovision song would be if the songwriters were Swedish. I can’t even do a proper review on it because there is nothing to say about it – it’s not bad, it’s just been heard a 10’000 times before. And because Denmark is starting to annoy me with that, it gets only 2/10.

Australia: Dami Im – Sound of Silence

Australia is our newest addition to the family, and of course trying to prove they deserve the place in Eurovision. I think they succeeded with that last year, and I had Tonight Again down as a potential winner for some time. It’s still one of my favourites of the 2015 contest, and Australia has changed the style but tried to send another “real world” entry.

I kind of like the low beginning, and the heartbeat-like drums may be a little overused, but always effective. Notice how they suddenly disappear in the buildup to the first chorus? Me likes that. However, the chorus is where it goes wrong for me. I mean, this is totally not my style, but it also gets very big to a point where I can’t really take her serious anymore. Until there, the song is a nice picture of the grief I imagine she feels waking up to silence and apparently alone. But there, her image in my head turns into “total drama queen who wants my pity”, no matter how often she tells me she’s being strong. And vocal showoffs always bore me. Overall, it’s just a well-executed version of something I dislike.

This will obviously depend a lot on the vocal abilities of Dami, and I assume she can sing this song perfectly, cause she’ll need to. And probably should get rid of the video hairstyle, cause it makes her look weird. I fear she won’t keep it open like when she’s wearing the dark dress in the video, so that hope has gone… Lyrically, there’s not much to criticize I think – the English-speaking countries seem to be safe there unless they don’t even try to be. Apart from the endless repetition of “it beats to the sound of silence”, that is. But I assume that’s part of the plan. Well, I am trying to judge something I am just not into by definition, and I can see it’s well done. But I am judging on my taste, so that’s no more than 4/10.

Ireland: Nicky Byrne – Sunlight

Ireland is still the record winner until Sweden takes its next crown, which is somewhat hard to believe if you only know their more recent attempts. The focus on showcasing celtic heritage has somewhat faded (luckily), but there’s still a lot wrong with Ireland’s latest entries. One looked like it was the entry of Egypt, one had a singer never smiling and hiding behind a piano – I can totally see (especially see, actually) while it never worked. And now?

Like in the past year, there’s not really so much wrong with the Irish entry, just also not too much right. Actually it’s a bit a case of Denmark with less quality. In this case, the whole thing also sounds like it comes straight from 2001. A 5-10 year delay is somewhat acceptable in ESC as shown by others, but a throwback to the times of boygroups… I am not sure about that. There’s a weird lack of bass in this song (I think it’s not an issue of my computer as it was fine on Australia and Denmark), which makes it even more weird and forgettable. And a lack of distinction between chorus and verse. In the second part of the song, everything sounds kind of the same to me. It all makes a quite unfinished impression.

Nicky himself fits the boygroup vibe of the thing (not surprising thinking he has been in one) as in he looks like a rather replacable prop rather than the artist of the song. I wonder if they can get him to look like he means the song until May 12th. And then there’s the bad bad decision of making a lyric video to a song with such a weird text. “Touch who you wanna” – that’s called sexual assault, Mister. “Kiss who you gotta” – I doubt kissing was ever as unattractive as this. It sounds like a job. “Dance like you mean it, sing like you feel it” – that’s a piece of advice you should listen to, my dear Nicky. And the fact it ends with a “suuuun” but no “light” disturbs me more than ist should. Well, Ireland did try but failed with this, I guess. I’ll be nice, cause I can see they did probably try, so here’s 4/10.

After this rather low-scoring round of review, we’ll take the last of our kind to an utopian land and show them the real thing. Join us again or Switzerland, Montenegro and Greece!

Review Part XIV: Spain, Finland, Netherlands

Hello everyone, did you survive the first day of rehearsal madness? It was once planned that we are finished today… yeah, right. But there’s not a lot left to go, and today we take three more off the to-do-list. Three classic western Eurovision nations, all with various success over the last years. Let’s check out Spain, Finland and the Netherlands.

Spain: Barei – Say Yay!

Spain has tried various things lately, but they tend to do best when they return to the dramatic female ballad. Things like Dancing In The Rain look like the only way to the top for España, which is a little weird as they should be predestined for summer hits as well. But let’s not forget their attempts at this were usually simply bad. This year, they decided to try it again, and Say Yay! seems to be pretty popular. Will that prove right?

My favourite thing about the song is probably Barei’s voice. I love love love this type of female voices. And the song itself? It can turn out either way, really. She has a high risk of coming out shouty and aggressive, which would be horrible, or she can end up powerful and making me dance, which would be great. The song offers both possibilities. There seems to be quite a lot going on in the instrumental that doesn’t really translate to the track, which is a little annoying – I note a lot of sound happening, while the end product is just a blend of noise. Or, to put it less nicely, a lot of sound elements wasted.

I guess there has been a lot of talk around about Barei’s style and dance moves, but I admit I like both of them. The dance reminds me very much of Kurt Calleja of Malta, and it never did him any harm. And about the style, hey, I like a little “street” on stage. I’m more concerned about the staging, as the Spanish have proved they’re capable of very weird stuff with Amanecer. Or that anyone notices how little sense the lyrics seem to make. They sound like someone put every motivational line that one can think of together and added a catchy hook. But then again, who listens to them anyway? Spain, you can do better but you’re on a very right track. I’ll reward the effort with a rather generous 7/10.

Finland: Sandhja – Sing It Away

Finland has blessed us with many of my favourites, as they are what I am to the fan community, the household guitarboys and girls. I always throw some interested looks their way, and who else could bring metal to the Eurovision throne? They took another route this year, so let’s see how I like that.

This starts a little less shouty and energetic than Spain, but quickly takes a very similar route. The fact Sandhja’s verses are less loud makes it sound more structured though, and the backing track is a bit less noisy. It’s very un-Finnish however, with the brassy sound bits in the background which sound rather like something Azerbaijan would use. Everything in the song seems to be directed at creating a fun uplifting sound, which makes it a great starter. However, it’s also not very memorable in consequence, as it seems rather “flat” to me, not doing anything except creating fun. I think that while it’s good for the show it’s on the first position, it’s rather bad for the Finns.

I can’t understand Sandhja in the chorus even if I try, not live and not in studio. I keep hearing “melting your balls away”, but surely she can’t be singing that? The whole live thing is not really working for me, at least not in the video of UMK. First of all, she looks rather uncharming I think. I’m not against short hair per se, but it doesn’t really suit her. Then, I can definitely make out some missed notes and a lack of energy in some places. Not exactly what she needs – she can do with a few wrong tones, but the energy needs to be there 110% for such a song. Give it all you’ve got, Sandhja, and I can let you get away with 4/10.

Netherlands: Douwe Bob – Slow Down

The Netherlands have been chronically unsuccessful when I started watching Eurovision, and it was often easy to see and hear why. Until their 2013 rebirth at the hands of Anouk, that is. Followed by a country episode that would probably have won in another year, when there was no potential Eurovision icon on offer. It kinda makes sense they’re back to country now.

The sond starts out with the ticking noise and the voice of Douwe Bob, which is nicely slower than the ticking (and the song in general in the first few bars?). Nice effect! It’s a fairly simple arrangement, guitars, drums, bass and a piano that is adding a nice depth to the song. It may be a little repetitive, but I personally don’t really mind. At least this makes sure that the hook is stuck in your mind. And it’s a great singalong song after all. Little weird detail: Why is the song speeding up when he says “Slow Down” for the first time?

A lot of the success of such a song will depend on the vocal performance and the staging, and both better be good. The Dutch have proven they’re capable of staging country in 2014(even though that was a very different song), but they also showed their capability of colossal fuckups more than once. The little bit of rehearsal footage we’ve seen makes me positive about the staging, but it’s hard to judge by it. A band setup is definitely what’s needed for this song. And I totally hope they include the beer bottle slide guitar of the video. I’m usually no country lover, but here it’s a nice breath of air, and worth 8/10.

We are getting cloesr and closer to the end of the review round (and to Eurovision), and tomorrow we’ll finish the S songs. Next on the list: Soldiers of love listening to the sound of silence in the sunlight. Or in other words, Denmark, Australia and Ireland.

Review Part XIII – Italy, Hungary, Estonia

After a quite busy weekend, we finally have the time for another review. Say Yay! No, not that one. Instead we get the latest Big 5 addition Italy, the country of hipsters, runners and unearned love, Hungary and the first Baltic state to win Eurovision, Estonia. Quite a nice combo, isn’t it? I’d say less talkie more singie. Let’s go!

Italy: Francesca Michielin – No Degree Of Separation

For the first time ever, Italy has decided on a song with an English title. Which is a pity, because to my ears, Nessun Grade Di Separazione sounds a lot nicer, even though both titles are unfluent and a little weird. Oh, and as a little bonus, Francesca has been votest hottest female ESC participant 2016 by the crowd on the ESCnation message board. I think I approve.

The song starts out very Italian in a way, with a vocal showoff, but it’s some kind of “radio Italian”, reminding of Laura Pausini and the likes. Which is quite new for Italy in Eurovision I’d say. What I notice is that, at least compared to her voice, the instrumental is rather flat. There’s not really a distinctive melody in there as (extreme example) we get in the Balkan ballads, or anything standing out. The English part blends in quite nicely, but I still doubt its necessity. I also would have placed it in the end, the Italian final lines make it seem a little forced. Good English though!

Looking at the video, what is it with Italians and movies? First the references of Il Volo (which I didn’t get) and now Francesca’s 3D thing. She should probably avoid being so emotionless in Stockholm as she is in the first part of the video. Also, she definitely proves my point that women don’t need to wear dresses to look good while singing, thumbs up for that!
I wonder about how this will look live. Not only the staging, which I expect to be unspectacular, but also backdrop and styling of her. I’d love them to keep the rather casual vibe of the video (the non-film parts with the 3D glasses) and somehow incorporate elements of that. And this song obviously requests a killer voice which I kinda hope she has. Italy sent us a nice piece of pop (rare to hear me saying that!) and I reward that with 7/10.

Hungary: Freddie – Pioneer

Hungary has not really been anywhere on my ESC map despite masterpieces like Unsubstantial Blues (another woman without a dress!) and fan favourites like the – in my opinion dreadful – What About My Dreams? until 2013, when some hipster guitarboy came along. Somehow they managed to deliver twice in a row, but fell down last year with Boggie. So what does this year have to offer for Hungary?

I have already hinted at that earlier, but for a song called Pioneer, it’s surprisingly conventional. The main selling point of the song is, in my opinion, Freddie. Not only is he apparently not unattractive, but damn this man has a nice voice. Given he hits the notes of course. But the tone of his voice is something I love, and the song has some very nice elements too. Those six notes in the verse (the whistling noise that’s probably no actual whistling) is quite good at taking my attention, and the whole thing is definitely not dated, just very un-daring I think. It’s far from cutting any edges, but it’s good at being what it is.

If the A Dal staging is anything to go by, they already kinda have a working way figured out. Except the fact that the drummer is incredibly cliché of course. And the slightly disturbing sweater that he should definitely change (or for the benefit of more interested watchers, get rid of). The only thing I can see that may be a problem is the backings. They look like traffic cops, and they’re a weird combination of hidden yet not really hidden. Can you overthink that please, Hungary? And while we’re at it, Freddie’s voice could use some extra confidence and security. But I guess they’ll sort that out, which would give them a solid 6/10.

Estonia: Jüri Pootsman – Play

Estonia tends to produce one of my favourite NFs, and out of it can come both very good things (2015), rather weird stuff (2010, 2011) and sometimes pure uselessness (2014). What it rarely produces, though, is a completely indifferent song, even though that has happened before. Overall it’s not hard to see why Estonia was rather successful and the first Baltic winner. And this year?

The first verse definitely makes sure you’re listening. Jüri’s voice is quite captivating in combination with this music, and somehow doesn’t sound like what I’d expect from seeing him. I like the progression leading up to the chorus – it makes it really obvious something’s gonna happen, but you don’t know exactly what. I like that. And the rhythmic use of the keyboard (or whatever that is) in the buildup. Interestingly, the Estonians have managed to create a song that’s both rather dark and interesting and getting stuck in my head, which is usually not the case for me (Exception: Poland!)

Now I already mentioned Jüri’s looks – he looks like a bank apprentice. And what I find weird is that the song is called Play, yet he has probably the least playful expression of all participants. The lyrics, which are not exactly easy to understand when he sings them by the way, are not exactly clear to me either. “Play / Cause that’s the only way / To find out if it’s love / That we’re falling into”. Is he suggesting to sleep around to find out if he actually loves his partner? No, I totally don’t see how this could go wrong. But given that Stig Rästa wrote the song, that may explain how he ended up with Elina. It’d kinda make sense why he leaves her if he suddenly realized he actually loves Jüri… Overall, job well done for Estonia! I assume you can do that again, Jüri, so you get a 8/10.

Next time, we’ll Say Yay to sing it away and then slow down, which is not only a good description for a karaoke party but also our next program, with Spain, Finland and the Netherlands!