ESC2018: it’s a goer in Lisboa…

Happy Eurovision day, eurofans, and greetings from a sort of sunny Southport. In just a few hours it’ll be the culmination of the ESC2018 campaign.

Who is going to win this year? Cyprus? Israel? Perhaps Ireland will challenge as it’s now one are the hot faves. I’d be happy with any of them, as well as Sweden, Germany and France. I just hope that the winning song is one that I like this year – and it would be good if it could be an international hit.

The broadcast tonight is a bit of a marathon, that’s why I’m happy to be watching from home. We’re in the safe hands of Graham Norton’s commentary tonight. He’s been on good form on his BBC Radio 2 show this morning, so here’s hoping his script will be as entertaining tonight. Remember that song nine marks the raising of a glass for the late Terry Wogan, and this year it will be time for the UK’s SuRie to do her thang. Ever the optimist, I hope to be proved wrong that the UK won’t be in the bottom five…

The running order for the Grand Final has been decided, and as always there are fan theories/conspiracy theories about why certain songs are placed in certain positions. Well, here’s an interesting explanation from Contest producer, Christer Björkman. Eagle-eyed viewers will notice that the Post-it note for Spain has no details on it, despite Christer’s explanation of how they are categorised. Made me laugh! Like they haven’t put Spain second to annoy them? 🙂

As we have seen this year, lots of countries that we would normally expect to sail through to the final didn’t. This might in some way be influenced by a change in the way the professional juries vote. In previous years each member of the jury ranked all the songs from best to worst, and then they were ranked. This year they vote on every song, and then they are ranked. Confused? It’s probably had an impact. We’ll see when the vote breakdown is revealed after the conclusion of the Grand Final.

This year I’m not ranking the final on the blog. I’ve told you my faves at the start of this post. One of these twenty-six songs will take the crown. As Wogan used to say, it’s the glorious unpredictability of it all that is part of the ESC’s charm – and why we tune in!

I’ll be back for a final recap on Sunday, but in the meantime have an abba-solutely fabulous Eurovision tonight!

🙂 xx

 

 

ESC2018: Eurovision by numbers…

It was a night of numbers at ESC2018. We had the 1500thsong performed by Alexander Rybak, and another ten songs through to the Grand Final. We had four presenters who are fun to watch, but a bit giddy at times and having to deal with a dodgy script in places. Still, they are entertaining to watch. The show was fast-moving and once again I enjoyed watching the live stream without commentary. But numbers aside, what else did we learn?

We saw the first toilet roll holder dress of the contest this year – frock horror!

There was a reference to ‘Allo ‘Allo! by one of the presenters

Then there was a reference to Oprah!

The masculine roar from the audience was back

There wasn’t any booing for Russia this year

The singers were once again abandoned by their backing singers

I still think the hashtag reads as ALLA BOARD…

…last night I might have changed it to I AM BORED!

That said – OMG – that semi-final was hard work! In all my years of watching the ESC, I don’t think I’ve ever been so underwhelmed by the thing I love! Boy oh boy were there some stinkers –and some shocks. Romania and Russia’s perfect record of getting to the final came to an end. I was shocked that Romania didn’t make it through with the song, but not so as a consequence of the rather bonkers staging! Then there was Russia with a terrible vocal, and similarly weird staging.

Sweden stole the show for me (my Swedish bias aside!). It was just classy, and looked great on the telly, didn’t it!? My napkin was 7/10, but I’ll take that – it was better than I was expecting – and I really didn’t think that Australia would make it, but they did. So here are the next ten songs which now complete the Grand Final line-up on Saturday…

I guess the next thing to do is to top-up the twenty qualifiers with the ‘Big 5’ and host country Portugal.

Portugal

It’s a laid back affair from the hosts this year. I like it. A bit like Lithuania this year, the vocal has that slightly irritating croaky/breathless vocal. But you’ve got love a bit of pink hair…

 France

I’d be chuffed if this song won the whole thing. I downloaded the song when it won the French national final – so I’ve got the full version. What’s being performed, effortlessly, is the ESC edit…

Classy and cool. Merci!

Germany

This package packs a punch. Strong song and fab staging. Could be a top ten finish for Germany. Best entry from them in years…

Italy

This song will close the Grand Final. A song with a socially conscious message – a pity that it’ll be lost on us when we don’t speak Italian! A good effort from Italy, with effective staging…

 Spain

This song is a bit of a Frozenduet. This real-life couple do a cute performance of a decent ballad. That said, the producers have placed it second in the draw, and so any chance it might have had has been killed-off. Same for the entente cordiale between Portugal and Spain!

And finally…

United Kingdom

Judging from the rehearsal footage, the UK’s SuRie gives it some welly with a confident performance, that is visually fairly interesting. A pity that the song is a bit bland. I fear the UK will not make it out of the bottom five once again, and it will be nothing to do with Brexit or anything else. It will be because we have sent a rather uninteresting song, once again…

I would be more than happy to be proved wrong, btw!

All in all these songs are a great addition to the Grand Final – particularly France and Germany.

Next update from me will be my final thoughts on the, erm, Grand Final!

Adeus por agora! 🙂

ESC2018: it’s my second semi-final ‘napkin of death’…

Seriously, as a fan… kill me, kill me now! So glad I’ve been watching from home – as I got a lot of stuff done in what was, for me, the least interesting run of songs, ever…

So, before the result is announced, here are the top ten qualifiers on my napkin tonight…

Norway

Romania

Denmark

Moldova

Montenegro

S-W-E-D-E-N 🙂

The Netherlands

Hungary

Poland

Ukraine

🙂 xx

 

ESC2018: right back with Rybak…

The first semi-final was a bounty of riches. This time around, it feels like slim pickings in terms of certainties to qualify for the final. That said, it starts with a bit of Eurovision royalty…

  1. Norway

A familiar face returns to the Eurovision stage this year. Alexander Rybak romped to Victory back in 2009 with Fairytale. At the time, it got the most points ever for a Eurovision winner. I often wonder what makes a champ come back into the contest – especially if your song was as huge as Rybak’s was. Well, he’s back and you’ll see Alex on familiar ground with an up-tempo pop song showcasing his fiddle, as he did back in 2009. The song is a bit dated and a bit contrived, but it’s another song with an ear worm in it. You have heard this song before, drawing as it does from a range of hooks and riffs that will be very familiar to you. It will deffo get to the final, and will challenge for the top five. And, as a popular returning Eurovision winner, the producers have rewarded Alex with the first performance for the second semi-final, with what will be the 1500th song performed at Eurovision since it launched in 1956…

  1. Romania

With the exception of a disqualification denouement prior to the ESC in 2016, Romania have a great qualification record. This will continue in 2018 with a solid soft-rock ballad. Shades of Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars, with a female vocal with shades of Celine Dion, I like it very much. It’s position in the running order raised my eyebrows, but hopefully coming off the back on Alexander Rybak will help it rather than hinder it…

  1. Serbia

Dripping with shades of the Balkan, this song. Serbia sing in their native language for the first time since 2013. The ethnic twist is refreshing, but the song takes too long to get going with two nymphs warbling for the best part of a minute before the first verse. It’s another song where it’s a bit mismatched in terms of structure. And to be honest, the female warbling get a tad annoying. I don’t think this will make the final…

  1. San Marino

Bless ‘em, San Marino have only qualified for the final once. They tend to send rather bonkers songs – blissfully doing their own thang that never quite connects with mainstream music tastes. Same thing this year! And unfortunately it will be taxi for San Marino once again…

  1. Denmark

Denmark have gone all Pirates of the Caribbean on us! The visual and the performance fits well with the “All Aboard” theme. Should make the final, but not my bag…

  1. Russia

Oh the drama last year when Russia’s singer Julia Samoylova wasn’t allowed entry to the Ukraine to perform at ESC2017. It really was politics playing out in the contest. Well, Julia’s back this year with I Won’t Break. It’s not a terrible song – but the rehearsal footage and previous performance footage is a bit painful to watch. A rather out of tune vocal, and with staging at Eurovision which really does raise questions about how best to present a disabled performer. It makes me feel slightly uncomfortable…

  1. Moldova

Hooray – I’m bowled over by Moldova! 🙂 Love this. An up-tempo feel-good song. The music video and staging are a bit bonkers, but it adds to the fun. Should make it to the final…

  1. The Netherlands

Back in 2014 Conchita won for Austria with the fab Rise Like A Phoenix. In what was a very good competition that year, and The Netherlands finished in second place with The Common Linnets and their song Calm Before The Storm. This year the male vocalist, Waylon, returns to the Eurovision to rock-out a lot more than he did last time around! Set apart from anything else in the draw, and the fact he will be known for his previous attempt, I think this will make the final…

  1. Australia

I find this song a bit beige if I’m honest. It’s a rather generic song. Jessica is a great vocalist and she has performed at a previous contest (although not competing), so she will probably sell the song through the performance. Should make it through…

  1. Georgia

Fact fans, this is the first entry from Georgia to be fully sung in Georgian. There are nice harmonies from Ethno-Jazz Band Iriao, and it’s all suitably, erm, ethnic! There aren’t many songs with that ethnic flourish in this semi-final, which could work in its favour…

  1. Poland

This is a radio-friendly song you could easily imagine on the airwaves. I could see this in the final…

  1. Malta

Another generic song, just not very interesting for me…

  1. Hungary

This is probably the most niche sounding song in the contest. Different from anything else, and will get votes a bit like Lordi did back in 2006, because it’s going to attract the metal fans – if they’re watching! 🙂

  1. Latvia

Answers on a postcard/email/pigeon please: what song does this sound like? Yeah, there’s a bit of a Bond theme formula to it. And a bit of Cry Me A River? Seriously, put me out of my misery! Depending on the performance, this might make it to the final…

  1. Sweden

Ok, so my usual preference towards Sweden continues this year! I didn’t go to Melodifestivalen this year, but from first listen this was clearly going to win the Swedish selection process. Once again Sweden combine a cracking song with an awesome visual. It looks amazing on the telly. A certainty to get through and give Sweden another top ten/top five finish in the final. I would love Sweden to host again, and they are certainly in the mix with Benjamin Ingrosso…

  1. Montenegro

A song sung in Montenegrin for the first time since 2015. Another anthemic and ethnic sounding song. For me, this song and Georgia overlap for this reason…

  1. Slovenia

In an attempt to curry local favour this song is sung in Slovene and Portuguese. Not that it will help…

  1. Ukraine

We finish the second semi-final with a country with a 100 percent track record of making it to the final. Will they be jinxed this year? It’s not the most interesting song, but the staging and performance might do enough to elevate it. With that track record you wouldn’t bet against it, but then again Azerbaijan got knocked out of the first semi-final and ruined their perfect run…

So, that’s the second semi-final. I find it a duller affair than the first – as you have just read! Let’s see how the songs translate on the Eurovision stage on Thursday night. UK readers, that’s BBC Four at 8.00pm, or watch via the live stream at eurovision.tv. I will post my ‘napkin of death’ as I did on Tuesday night. See if we agree with each other – I don’t think I’m going to do very well on this one!

🙂

ESC2018: count to ten with Mr Benn…

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the first semi-final last night, and we now know the top ten qualifiers for the Grand Final on Saturday. But what else did we learn?

 There isn’t an LED wall this year – did you notice?

 You could tell the fan favourites, based on a noticeably louder masculine roar from the crowd in the arena

 The roar from the bubble didn’t necessarily mean that songs made it to the Grand Final (e.g. Belgium)

 Too many of the solo performers seemed abandoned on the stage, without the support of their backing singers (where are they hiding?!)

 Bless ‘em – a couple of the performers had a little cry at the end (e.g. Iceland)

 Belgium’s singer was an Alannis Moriseette lookalike

 As I feared, the Greek entry was too Greek and didn’t make it to the Grand Final

 The format of the hashtag of All Aboard in capital letters made it look like ALLA BOARD

 The class of 2017 reunited to do a fab cover version of last year’s winning song

 There’s a lovely theme to accompany the “All Aboard” logo… 

All in all I thought it was a great show. It looked great on the telly, with a great stage and lighting. I had a momentary twinge of “I wish I was there”, but it didn’t last for long and I was glad to be watching from home with a glass of gin and fanta. Yep, really – gin and fanta! It’s a tradition inherited from years of going to the ESC and being in a country where it’s hard to find tonic water! 🙂

I posted my ‘napkin of death’ – I got 8/10. A bit irritated that I left Ireland out and put Greece in. I’d have had 9/10. As for Lithuania, I’d never have put that through, but it made it to the Grand Final.

Here’s the recap of who are now finalists on Saturday night…

Oh, and why the mention of Mr Benn? Do you remember the animated kids television show from the 1970s? Mr Benn went to a shop in every episode, and he would leave the shop via a magic door at the back of the changing room (which sounds a bit dodgy, doesn’t it!). I loved how the postcards introducing each country last night had the participant walk through a magic door! Amazing – made me chuckle all night. Remember the phrase “suddenly, as if by magic, the shopkeeper appeared”? 🙂

Here’s a sneek-peek at Spain’s postcard for Saturday, and you’ll see what I mean. And suddenly, as if by magic, Amaia and Alfred appeared…

And if you have no idea about Mr Benn and the shopkeeper and the magic door, check this out. #childhoodnostalgia …

I’ll be back soon with all the T on the second semi-final…

🙂

ESC2018: the heat is on for semi-final one…

I’m doing things a bit differently when reviewing the two semi-finals this year. I found that a lot of the music videos for the songs really detract from the quality of the song. The eye gets confused so much that the ear doesn’t like what it is hearing! So what I’m posting here is rehearsal footage (and at the end you can click through to watch the music video) and links to the songs themselves.  You can hear all of the 19 songs from the first semi-final via the Spotify playlist and links below…

All countries rehearse twice during the rehearsal period, and all the sneak-peeks below are from the second rehearsal. We’ll see the full performance on Tuesday. Also, remember that the producers have determined the running-order, following the initial draw allocation earlier this year.

This semi-final is by far the better of the two, with way more than ten songs jostling to get through. I’ve got at least thirteen on my list!

  1. Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan are ten for ten in terms of qualifying for the Grand Final. Since their debut in 2008 they have been consistently strong in terms of entries, and they won back in 2011 to subsequently host in Baku in 2012. I don’t think we’ll be heading back there for 2019, but this should qualify with a decent song (if not extraordinary and deffo with shades of Loreen’s Euphoria from 2012) and some interesting staging – with what I’m sure requires rubber soled shoes…

  1. Iceland

So early on and the good ship Eurovision is heading towards an iceberg. Fresh-faced singer Ari will perform a rather dated ballad, and the draw won’t help it either. Whist Ari has a good set of lungs on him, Iceland’s disappointing run at Eurovision is likely to continue…

  1. Albania

An anthemic song – the first non-English language song of the evening. Nice melody, good vocal, but in this competitive heat, and at this point in the draw I think it’ll struggle to get to get through…

  1. Belgium

Three top ten finishes in the last three years meant that fans were looking to Belgium to build on their fourth place last year. That song was cool and contemporary. This year it’s a song of two halves. Seriously – it sounds like two songs stitched together. For me the chorus and verses are a bit of a clunky fit, and I don’t think it’ll make the cut…

  1. Czech Republic

Singer Mikolas (that’s not a typo, readers) was one of the hot faves coming into the Contest. He’s a highly likeable chap, with an irritating catchy song. What a shame that during his first rehearsal he badly injured himself during his rather acrobatic dance routine. He was hospitalised and it looks like the moves he shows in the music video probs aren’t going to happen now. The performance has been re-choreographed as a result. Never mind though, this is sailing through to the final…  (soz, another sea pun!)

  1. Lithuania

A rather solemn entry from Lithuania this year. A familiar sounding melody and vocal., but I think this is the first song of the night where my drink and snacks will be refreshed…

  1. Israel

Steady yourselves. This is THE hot favourite this year. Netta has been leading the betting odds pretty much since the national finals were completed back in March. The song is a mix of kooky-crazy with a strong empowering lyric which very much taps into the recent climate of all those hash tags (time’s up/me too). I wasn’t a fan of the chicken clucking to start with, but it’s an ear worm of a song. Better just to give into it now! We might be in Jerusalem next year…

  1. Belarus

Another familiar melody to this song – you’ve heard it before without hearing it before. An OK song, but I don’t think it will make the cut…

  1. Estonia

Our first bit of ‘Popera’ for ESC2018. Another highly rated entry, could very well see us heading back to Tallin in 2019. It’ll depend if the operatic gymnastics from singer Elina Nechayeva capture the audiences attention, as much as her frock. I’m a fan of the song – it reminds me of Sweden’s 2009 entry La Voix which was also suitably popera-tastic (although it limped into the final and kinda sank). Eagle-eyed viewers to ESC in recent years have seen this frock staging before: Cesar for Romania in 2013, and Paulina for Russia in 2015. What’s the saying – go large or go home…

  1. Bulgaria

One of my faves – this song gives me one of those ‘euro-tingles’. Love it. Nice vocals and harmonies. Suitably moody, and I know it’s a bit derivative of Rag N Bone man, but I hope this makes it through. Sure it will…

  1. FYR Macedonia

Another song suffering from an identity crisis – chorus and verses are mismatched, and ther song just stops, rather abruptly. A place in the middle of the draw won’t help the cause and I think FYROM won’t make it through…

  1. Croatia

Another one of my favourites. It’ll come down to the staging. Someone tell me what the song reminds me of? Hopefully Croatia will qualify for the third year in a row. I’m sure the music industry juries will like it. I’m crazy for it. See what I did there…

  1. Austria

Look at the performance footage below. Should Cesár sack his stylist? 🙂 This song does overlap a bit with Bulgaria, but I like the soulful vocal and catchy chorus and the ‘call and response’ backing singers. Another one I think the jury vote will help…

  1. Greece

So here’s Greece doing their Ronseal thang. Looks like Greece, sounds like Greece, sung in Greek, dressed like the Greek Gods. Yes, Greece have got their Greek lightening on this year. I’m a fan. Between 2004 until 2011 Greece enjoyed top ten finishes, and won in 2005. Since 2012 it’s seen Greece qualify and finish towards the bottom of the leader board. In 2016 they failed to qualify for the only time. If Europe want to get their Greek on then this will qualify. Spain sent a similarly high-octane Spanish offering in 2015 with Edurne’s Amanecer. On that occasion it wasn’t a case of Y Viva España…

  1. Finland

If you read Saara Alto’s bio you will see that she is an alumnus of various singing shows in her native Finland, and also competed in the UK’s X-Factor  back in 2016. What’s her track record, you ask? Well, she’s always the bridesmaid and never the bride. Saara has a habit of being runner-up in all these contests – including trying to win the Finnish national final in the past. This year the Finnish broadcaster didn’t take any chances and it was Saara and Saara alone who was put forward to get the ticket for Lisbon. Luckily those canny Finns selected the best of her three songs, and surely Monsters will make the cut? With those powerhouse vocals, we know what she can do, and from the footage below, c’mon Saara!

  1. Armenia

Armenia have a good track record at Eurovision, appearing in 10 out of 11 contests. With those odds, it’s looking good. For me, it overlaps with Albanian song earlier in the draw. Interestingly, this is the first time that they have not sung in English in some part. Will the decision to sing in Albanian have an impact? Let’s see…

  1. Switzerland

Switzerland last won in 1988, when Celine Dion sung Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi. This year brother and sister combo ZiBBS and giving it some welly and not throwing stones. I’d like this to get through. It probs won’t in this competitive semi-final. The music video does it no favours! One of my faves, so lets hope I’m not the kiss of death because I love the vibe…

  1. Ireland

The first time I heard the song was the first time I saw the music video. And the soppy thing that I am, it made me have a little man cry. Love the music video – wasn’t expecting that storytelling. It doesn’t quite match the lyrics, but it doesn’t matter. It’s touchingly simple. I love the vocal and the harmonies of the song. Hopefully the refreshingly light arrangement might stand out towards the end of draw. It’s the first flourish of Ed Sheeran we’ve heard this year! C’mon Ryan – it’ll be a tough ask, but fingers crossed…

  1. Cyprus

And so it will be that the first semi-final will finish on an upbeat note! It’s one of the most contemporary sounding songs in the whole contest this year. Will deffo get to the final. If you watch the music video you will see that singer Elina is clearly channelling her inner Beyoncé (haven’t we all?!). This is the most competitive song Cyprus have had in years, with a high production value music video – although with some dubious costumes. I mean, really … (pats hair)

So, there we have it. It’s a really good semi-final. Although don’t be thinking that we’ll have that for the second one!

I’m looking forward to watching the full performances for the first time on Tuesday evening. For UK television viewers, you can see all the action on BBC Four from 8pm. I’m going to watch it via Eurovision.tv, so I don’t have to suffer Scott Mill’s talking drivel whilst commentating. That said, it’s a good addition of Rylan Clark-Neal this year – he’s done some entertaining interviews, which you can see via the BBC’s Eurovision website.

Enjoy the first semi-final, eurofans. I’ll be back with my ‘napkin of death’ during the interval, so check back to see if my predictions are correct. And remember, you select the songs you think will get through and not the ones you want.

From a very sunny Southport (as I type), adeus por agora!

(bye for now)

🙂 x

 

ESC2018: the launch of another titanic Eurovision…

Europe’s longest running television show is back on our screens this week as the good ship Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) sets sail on it’s 63rd voyage. For regular viewers it’s the now familiar passage through two semi-finals (Tuesday 8 and Thursday 10 May) with each sending 10 songs to the Grand Final (Saturday 12 May), where they will be joined by the ‘Big Five’ and host country Portugal.

In 2018 the ESC is a popular as ever, with a record-equalling forty-three countries taking part, battling gamely to take the Grand Prix de la chanson Eurovision. Be prepared for more hours of Eurovision telly this year than we have ever had. Some of it is going to be a bit of a stretch, as I’m not sure that this is a vintage year for songs. There are a lot of good tunes, but boy do we have some songs to sit through that we are never going to want to hear again! More so than in recent years. That said, there’s plenty to delight the eye and ear again this year, as we will see and hear…

Here in the UK it’s the hottest May Bank Holiday since this early Bank Holiday was introduced in 1978. Over in Portugal things are also hotting-up in Lisbon, the host city for this year’s ESC. After eight days of rehearsals Sunday evening saw the official launch of ESC2018, with the opening ceremony. All of the forty-three participating countries walked the ocean blue carpet – suitably tying in with the nautical and sea related theme for this year’s Contest “All Aboard”. I will try to not have too many sea/water/Portugal related puns. Oh, who am I kidding!

Should you have wanted to, you could have watched the live stream from the blue carpet (well, you still can – via www.eurovision.tv). That would be three hours of your life that you will not get back! I dipped in (I can’t help myself!) at the end to see the UK’s SuRie being interviewed after she’d walked the blue carpet. She seems really nice and comfortable with the whole process. Mind you, it’s not her first time at the rodeo as she has previously been involved with two entries representing Belgium, both of which finished in a rather respectful fourth place. We need not think this bodes well for the UK entry this year – it doesn’t – but more on that in a later post.

Click on the clip below for a sneak-peek at some rehearsal footage of the ‘Big Five’ countries and hosts Portugal from yesterday (Sunday), and some of the action from the blue carpet opening ceremony…

So here we go! I do have more of my Euro-mojo this year. Regular readers might remember that I just wasn’t digging Kyiv 2017. I just didn’t get the winning song from Portugal at all – and yet it was the biggest winner so far.

Up next from me is a review of the songs in the first semi-final. See if you agree with me. Without the benefit of seeing full rehearsals (as I have done in the past), this year (like last year) the top ten predictions on my ‘napkin of death’ will be done during the broadcast, and I’ll pop them on the blog so you can compare them with your own.

Are we ready? Shell yeah! 🙂

ESC2018: Olá Amigos!

All Aboard, Eurofans! It’s that time again…

This is the 11th year of my Eurovision Song Contest blog. I’m not blogging from sunny Lisbon this year, no – it’ll be sunny Southport/Ormskirk for me once again. As with last year this won’t stop me from getting suitably Eurovision giddy, and sharing my thoughts on the Contest this year with returning and new blog readers.

I’ll be blogging from this Sunday. The rehearsals have been underway in Lisbon since last weekend and from what I have seen of the snippets of rehearsal footage it’s once again going to be a musically and visually interesting year. Israel have been the bookies favourite for months now, but is now being challenged by Norway and France amongst others. The ‘Big Five’ and host country Portugal start their rehearsals today (4 May), so let’s see how they get on.

Anyway, I’ll be back online from Sunday, so in the meantime here’s the official Eurovision trailer to get you in the mood, with a whole load of songs I’be commented on since I started doing this blog waaay back in 2008…

Obrigada, Euro-chums!