ESC2019: Hey fever…

Happy Eurovision Day!

I can’t remember that last time I felt genuinely excited about a Grand Final. Today I do! A couple of years ago, when ESC2017 was in Ukraine, I had no Euro-mojo whatsoever. This was partly to do with stuff going on at work, but also due to the fact that I just didn’t get what all the fuss was surrounding the eventual winning song from Portugal. I also found the presenters in 2017 amongst some of the worst we’ve ever had. Perhaps I had no mojo because it was the first year since I was a kid that I’d watched it on my own.

Last year, I found (and still find) Israel’s winning song from Netta highly irritating. I’d hoped that Cyprus would steal the win with Fuego, but they just missed out. How funny that they have sent pretty much the same song this year!

This year my mojo is fully restored, and I will be joined by my Eurovision besties Rachel and Brian. They are heading over to Southport as I type this blog, so lots of Eurovision shenanigans, giggles and gasps await the three of us today. Well, all of us! 🙂

Let’s have a reminder of the line-up for the Grand Final tonight…

Pretty good, huh. Not too much fromage in there. A good range of music genres. The EBU have, once again, worked their (evil) genius to craft a running order that really works. They have placed the songs we need to be exactly where they need to be – you know, for when we need to refresh our drinks and top-up those nibbles. The EBU are restricted by which half of the draw the countries randomly draw. So, this is why both Sweden and The Netherlands are in the first half of the draw, 9th and 12th respectively. This isn’t going to help the cause for Sweden (now drifting in the betting odds), and it really will test whether The Netherlands – still the favourite to win – will be victorious.

Better news for Switzerland and Australia, performing 24th  and 25th out of 26 songs, with the Haribo-driven giddiness of Spain closing the show. That’s a brilliant end to the final. Totally benefitting both Switzerland and Oz. I really can’t see past Oz snatching the prize tonight. Or, will my early predication of Switzerland winning, before the rehearsals started a fortnight ago, come true?

Currently (13:00 GMT), these are the standings in the betting odds…

Switzerland up to third, Sweden down to fourth. Pretty static in the top ten with the one song that I really don’t want to win in the mix – I will not mention it because I don’t want to tempt fate!

What’s that you say – why is the blog post titled “Say Hey”? Well, because two of the hottest songs this year both start with the word ‘Hey” – Australia and Sweden. It was a perfect blog post title when they were ranked first and second!

I saw this fan-filmed clip from the  first semi-final jury rehearsal – gives a fab perspective on what we can’t see watching at home…

It makes me love it even more! Just stunning whichever way you look at it.

Apparently, there will be a lot of familiar former Eurovision faces taking part in the interval bits and pieces tonight. That’s good, because I find that 45-60-minute wait for the voting to start all rather tiresome – that’s why watching at home is good!

Oh, and let’s not forget that Madonna will be performing on the Eurovision stage. I can’t quite figure out why! Well, she’s got a new album to flog, and her fans are ripe for the picking, aren’t they? You might remember that Justin Timberlake was part of the interval act at ESC2016. This was mainly due to the fact that Logo TV in the USA were broadcasting it for the first time, so he was a draw for US viewers. It’s not being broadcast in the US this year, so it really must be all about Madonna’s new album! Now, I’m Madonna ‘till I die, but as I said in 2016 about JT, I really don’t think the participating countries should have attention drawn away from them. But hey, it will get casual viewers tuning-in, so the EBU will be pleased about that.

So, that’s all from me until tomorrow, when we will know who is the winner of ESC2019. Enjoy the show. I think it’s going to be one to remember, and the voting especially exciting because, as we have seen over the last few days, The Netherlands have a few countries more than ready to eclipse it and take the Eurovision crown. And I think the vote is going to be a very close one. ‘Citing.

Have a great night! 🙂

xx

ESC2019: will it be a dream ending for the super-six?

The automatic qualifiers are the usual countries of the “Big Five”, and host country Israel. I’d say that it’s not a particularly strong year all round for these six songs. As you’ll read below, the most interesting aspect from these six countries is perhaps Bilal for France – but that’s nothing to do with his song!

So here we go, with full performance footage!

Germany

S!sters – Sister

What’s that you say – why don’t we do some staging in the dark, no one else is doing that this year. Erm… I think it’s a bottom five finish for Germany. You know when a country is desperate these days when they use a fire wall at any point. Azerbaijan used is it at ESC2011, and the overall aesthetic at that time gave their performance the wow factor, and they were the winners of the Contest that year. These days its use smacks of desperation, and more importantly, distraction. Stay tuned as Israel also resort to the fire wall.

Israel

Kobi Marimi – Home

The position of this song in the running order was decided some time ago. Placed 14th isn’t going to help this rather leaden ballad. The visuals are attractive, and Kobi and friends give it some welly. It’ll get a home town cheer, but this isn’t going to be in contention.

France 

Bilal Hassani – Roi

What’s great about the ESC is that it really does welcome difference and is increasingly a place where artists can change our perceptions and show us their authentic selves, which transcends gender and sexuality barriers, if indeed you identify yourself in those ways. We’ve seen it in the past, most notably first in 1998, when Dana International won the Contest for Israel, and in doing so became the first transgender woman to do so. Since then various acts have acted out in male and female drag, most notably drag queen Conchita, who won with the amazing Rise Like A Phoenix for Austria back in 2014.

This year Bilal, France’s hugely popular social media influencer, is the artist grabbing a lot of attention due to his backstory and his aesthetic. The teenage singer and LGBTQI activist has 801,000 YouTube subscribers to his channel and 414,000 followers on Instagram. There’s some votes in the bag right there!

His song is about self-love and self-acceptance, and is written by Madame Monsieur, who represented France at ESC2018. I read an article in Billboard magazine which pointed out that song isn’t as interesting as his backstory, and I agree with that. He’s a fascinating individual with an interesting message, but for me the song is underwhelming. Will his fans care? Probably not.

Italy

Mahmood – Soldi

There’s a cool cachet surrounding this song. Lots of early interest in the early betting odds, but it’s slipped back this week. It’s on for a top ten finish. Mahmood’s vocal gets a bit Shaggy in places (mr bombastic!), and he looks a little bit grumpy. We saw the backdrop text and emotive images being used like this last year, so a there’s a bit or Italian recycling this year. That said, it was highly effective and gave Italy a surprising fifth place last year. Hey, if it ain’t broke! BTW, you’ll be clapping along by the end…

Spain

Miki – La Venda 

Well, the sun will certainly come out when Miki takes to the stage. His catchy up-tempo slice of summer is a bit infectious, but not as much as his wee face! His grin is everything. There are few performers in the whole Contest this year who will charm the audience – Miki will. And closing the Grand Final won’t harm its chances at all. Although some people might think it’s all a bit “extra” and children’s telly – which it is! How many bags of Haribo do you think they’ve had? 🙂

United Kingdom

Michael Rice – Bigger Than Us

Bless him. Lovely guy. Great song – which is written by Sweden’s singer this year, John Lundvik. You’ll see there’s a similarity between the two songs – bombastic ballads with a big finish. Sweden’s is the better of the two – why would John give the better song away?! Thankfully this is a UK entry that we do not need to be ashamed of. In fact, Michael will give it some welly and give us a great vocal. He has previous telly experience, having won the first series of All Together Now last year, and he’s popped-up on X-Factor auditions.

The question is, is our staging going to work well with the performance? Let’s see… Oh no, well we can’t actually …

According to Eurovision.tv, “due to technical issues, the full rehearsal performance from Michael Rice of the United Kingdom is unavailable. We apologise for any inconvenience.”

So we’ll just have to do with the clip from the show last night…

Ok, so a bit pitchy at the start, but when it kicks-up a gear, wow. I mean all of it – wow. Some actual effort to give an impressive visual to the performance. I like how the b-vox singers appear – looks like they’ve been beamed-down from space. Long-live the backing singers – working it like their rent is due tomorrow!

I’m pleasantly surprised, and with Michael leaping up to 17th in the betting odds (from the low 20s) it look encouraging for him. What’s that you say – will we make it to the left hand side of the leader board? That would be like him winning, so let’s just see.

Overall, it’s 50/50 with these six songs, with Italy, Spain and the UK the best of the six. So a not so super six after all…

🙂 xx

ESC2019: keeping the dream alive…

There was no messing about last night. Less than five minutes into the broadcast the first act was on stage. 18 songs this time around.

I know I’ve joked about the lesser-spotted backing singers, but I would question why this happens. There were loads of performances where they were absent from the stage (Albania, Ireland, Croatia, Russia, Azerbaijan…). Why it is more interesting to have only the performer on stage unsupported and not interacting with anyone? Some of the performances were a bit boring as a result.

I don’t know what rehearsal footage I was watching for Malta, because what was on stage last night looked really different. I didn’t like the wee box she was in front of – it looked odd set against the impressive expanse of a backdrop.

They did tweak Denmark’s performance, having Leonora climb the ladder rather than just float onto the big chair. Loved it, but I thought they’d killed it off!

Somehow I managed to get 9/10 on my napkin of death (damn you North Macedonia!). How did you do – did your favourites make it through? I thought there was something missing from Sweden. The first time I haven’t had the wow factor from it – I think perhaps the camera shot’s aren’t as good as the Melodifestivalen, and it’s all a bit too dark in terms of lighting.  It’s dropped back in the betting, and Australia now replaces it as second favourite. Somehow The Netherlands clings on, after what is a very dull performance. That said, it is a great song.

So what did we learn form the second semi-final? …

There was a lot of spider-cam action again, as in the first semi-final (some peeps think it’s being over-used)

What the sand artist was doing on the backdrop for Moldova didn’t match what she was doing on the stage

Romania used every inch of the stage, not that it helped

Poor Ireland’s performance was a hot mess, wasn’t it

Some angel wings and a key change was a step too far for Croatia

Russia’s Sergei looked like a Ken doll trapped in that box

There was an appearance of the lesser-spotted wind machine (I loves me some wind machine action)

The interval act was inspired (did you have a little tear?)

Latvia’s singer Sabine’s eye makeup was so on fleek…

Overall another well-paced and well-produced show.

The ten countries progressing to the Grand Final are…

North Macedonia – Tamara Todevska with Proud

The Netherlands – Duncan Laurence with Arcade

Albania – Jonida Maliqi with Ktheju tokës

Sweden – John Lundvik with Too Late For Love

Russia – Sergey Lazarev with Scream

Azerbaijan – Chingiz with Truth

Denmark – Leonora with Love Is Forever

Norway – KEiiNO with Spirit In The Sky

Switzerland – Luca Hänni with She Got Me

Malta – Michela with Chameleon

I watched the BBC 4 broadcast last night, suffering through the cringe-inducing commentary from Rylan and Scott Mills. They added very little in terms of additional information about the artists and their songs. It seemed like they were amusing themselves – that thing when you laugh at what you’ve just said really show’s that you’re not actually funny, right? Thankfully we have Graham Norton on Saturday night – although depending on who has done his research and written his script, he can be off point at times.

The EBU have published the running order for the Grand Final (more of that to come on the blog on Saturday) and let’s just say it’s playing into the hands and favour of Australia and Switzerland, whilst perhaps killing-off Sweden’s chances. It’s going to make it a really exciting final. Bring it on!

I’m back next with a preview of the Big 5 and Israel.

🙂 xx

ESC2019: who will keep their dream alive?

After a marvelous first semi-final, let’s see if the songs on offer tonight are Abba-dabba-do’s, or Abba-dabba-don’ts…

01  Armenia

Srbuk – Walking Out

This wouldn’t have been my first choice to open this semi-final. The staging looks a bit dull, even with the pyrotechnics. It’s not often that a song opening a semi-final doesn’t make it – but I think, like Azerbaijan last year, this opener won’t make the cut.

02  Ireland

Sarah McTernan – 22

I have been a huge fan of this song since I first heard it when it was released a couple of months ago. Based on this short clip it looks like a bit of a hot mess. Does the track really imbue that 50s malt shop era? Sarah is singing about being 22, not 1952! It all seems a bit disconnected between song and staging. A pity, as it’s a nice song. Probs not going through to the final. Perhaps the juries will save it?

03  Moldova

Anna Odobescu – Stay

Blimey, Anna gives it some welly. It’s not a terrible song, but what I can’t get beyond is the daylight robbery from Ukraine’s performance from ESC2011…

O-M-G, the cheek! I don’t mind an homage or a cheeky nod to something, but this is lazy, and a bit insulting to Eurofans who will know this is a bit of a rip-off. Perhaps for those who are not familiar, the backdrop will sell the song?  Hmmm

And now, may the fourth be with you…

04  Switzerland

Luca Hänni – She Got Me

For me, this semi-final starts here. Prior to the Contest and seeing the rehearsal footage, I thought Switzerland were going to win, even ahead of the long time favourite from The Netherlands. You will hear shades of Cyprus’s Fuego from last year, as well as a whiff of Tamta’s Replay from the first semi-final this year. The Swiss staging looks good, but not as great as the music video. Kudos that they haven’t just duplicated the music video on stage, but it’s a shame that they haven’t done so…

I had to do a double take – I thought I saw Strictly’s Vincent and Flavia! Fab song.

05  Latvia

Carousel – That Night

Now you know that the juries are going to love this song – will the voting public? I don’t mind it – it washes over me, in a good way. Shades of Norah Jones and Lilly Allen to the vocal and vibe. Simple staging, not a bad place in the draw. Things might just go Latvia’s way.

06  Romania

Ester Peony –  On A Sunday

For many years Romania were an ESC banker, seemingly guaranteed a place in the Grand Final. Recently it’s gone a bit Pete Tong. And I’m not entirely sure how it will go this year. The song is OK, not particularly memorable, but it’s hard to judge on such a small rehearsal clip on how this will translate tonight.

07  Denmark

Leonora – Love Is Forever

Je t’aime! Je t’aime! Je t’aime! This is in my top five, and it was an immediate early favourite of mine. The song may be a little too sweet and Doris Day (RIP, lovely) for some, but for me the real genius of this entry is the staging. And what do most Eurovision winners have these days (?) – a performance tailored to the television viewer, and this does just that. Watch the national final performance and be charmed…

I really hope they don’t mess with the format too much. They have added a couple of additional b-vox peeps. I hope this is a sleeper and makes it through. C’mon Europe – and Australia!

 08  Sweden

John Lundvik – Too Late for Love

Regular readers will remember that I am slightly obsessed with Sweden’s Melodifestivalen, which is their six week selection process that usually delivers them an excellent song and a great result at the ESC. After the shock of failing to qualify back in 2010, Sweden have been taking no chances, and have placed in the top ten eight times in the last nine years, and in the top five on five occasions, winning it twice. The best recent track record of any participating country. And they will maintain their track record with yet another top five finish. And you will not be surprised to hear me say that this might win ahead of Australia. FYI, during the voting at the Melodifestivalen final back in March, all of the international juries awarded it the maximum douze-points, the first time that had ever happened. Currently second with the bookies, I think it will eclipse The Netherlands tonight, as John and his awesome backing singer, The Mamas, and gonna slay the runway…

09  Austria

PÆNDA – Limits

Hard to get much of a sense of the song in this clip. It gives a melodic and breathy vocal, and songs like this tend to do well with the juries. That said, it’s another darkly staged song, following on from Sweden’s rather dark staging. Looks quite effective, but it might get lost after Sweden’s powerhouse, OR it’s a perfect change of pace.

10  Croatia

Roko – The Dream

Roko certainly gives is some welly, and one of the best male vocals of the whole competition. Not sure if the whole angel wing thing will work for or against him. A bit twee, or visually effective? I think it’ll be on my napkin of death, but I’ll have to see the whole performance to decide.

11  Malta

Michela – Chameleon

The most contemporary song I think Malta have ever sent, this should easily be aiming for a top ten finish. This is a brilliant pop song and the staging is vibrant and highly effective. Love the whole thing, except the rather odd pronouncement of the word chameleon, and how it almost sound like she’s singing karma chameleon. It is very hard for me to not sing karma chameleon, I must say!

12  Lithuania

Jurij Veklenko – Run With The Lions

This feels a bit like Finland in the first semi-final, all a bit dated. Also, when you hear the full track there is a slightly odd falsetto in places. And black is the new black in a lot of the staging tonight, isn’t it!

13  Russia

Sergey Lazarev – Scream

When he competed in ESC2016 Segei actually won the popular vote (televote), but finished in third place. The jury cost him that year. His previous entry, You Are The Only One, had amazing staging, and a bombastic uptempo pop song. It’s only flaw was the cringe-inducing lyric “thunder and lightning it’s getting exciting”. That song is now one of my faves, although it wasn’t at the time. I hope the staging is more impactful than the short clip. I loves me some Sergei, and the thought of nine or ten Segei’s at the same time should be a dream come true, but is it really in this staging? If lightning strikes twice (see what I did there) Sergei will do well, but we’re not heading to Russia next year. Sure to make it through.

14  Albania

Jonida Maliqi – Ktheju tokës

Unlike the first semi-final there aren’t many songs not sung in English, and with that authentic indigenous sound, so Albania will certainly stand out. Not the most immediate songs to my ear, but I look forward to seeing the full performance. If a similar song for Serbia can make it to the final, perhaps this can also…

15  Norway

KEiiNO – Spirit in the Sky

A bit like in the first semi-final, there needs to be a bit of retro Euro-fromage, and we get if from Norway in this semi-final. It’s well-liked and will probably get through to the final, but I have to say I find it all a bit irritating – especially the vocal from the bald guy, which is all a bit like the Chef from The Muppets…

16  The Netherlands

Duncan Laurence – Arcade

And so we’ve made it to the hot favourite. Fans of the music video will be hugely disappointed with this staging. You see, in the music video Duncan is naked throughout (tastefully done), submerged in water – it’s all very moody and ethereal. I know some of you will now be searching for the music video on YouTube! I’m a huge fan of the song, it’s one of the best, and it’s time for The Netherlands to win. The last time they did was back in 1975, with Teach In’s delightfully named Dina-A-Dong (stop laughing at the back!). I think they will be waiting at least another year, because even though the juries will love it, and it will be up there with the best songs in the final, does the staging really do anything to attract the ear of the casual viewer? We shall see…

17  North Macedonia

Tamara Todevska – Proud

Newly named country, North Macedonia (FYROM no more) give us a bit of old-school balladeering, in an old-school gown (yikes). The lesser-spotted b-vox singers are in there somewhere. Doesn’t Tamara look like a young Kim Wilde? Good to have a powerhouse ballad in the mix, but I don’t think it will get through.

18  Azerbaijan

Chingiz – Truth

Another well fancied song that I don’t quite get. I don’t know why the title of the song isn’t ‘shut up’, as it is the major phrase throughout. There’s a total mismatch between the song and the staging, isn’t there? I’m not a fan but I think it will get through if the performance doesn’t look as naff as this short clip makes it.

So, is there a winner in this half of the draw. There are some of the stronger songs in this draw, but overall it feels a bit more beige than the first semi-final. That said, if that was anything to go by it will be another cracking show tonight, which is at 8pm on BBC4 in the UK, which I will be watching. I will post my final napkin of death in the interval, but for now I’m thinking…

Switzerland, Latvia, Denmark, Sweden, Croatia, Malta, Russia, Norway, The Netherlands, Azerbaijan

Let’s see if my mood changes on any of these (and the other) songs tonight once I, along with you, have seen the full performances.

Enjoy the show, Eurofans! 😀 xx

 

ESC2019: Diva delights and the land of leather…

Wow. What a great first semi-final. I loved it. Brilliant telly!

The whole production was slick, well-paced and the staging was A-MA-ZING!

I have been watching from the comfort of home since 2017, and this is the first time that I wanted to be in the arena. As it was, my front room was my arena and I was watching the action via the euroivision.tv YouTube stream. It was great watching without commentary, but I will watch the BBC4 coverage to see that additional interviews with the various singers. I understand that the Beeb did a knock-off carpool karaoke as one of the segments. Suitably BBC to not have a particularly original idea when it comes to Eurovision!

I thought the presenters did a good job. Bar Refaeli was dressed in Gina G’s outfit from ESC1996. Lucy Ayoub was youthfully energetic. Assi Azar, who was named as one of OUT Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Gay People, made reference to his sexuality within the show, which was nicely done. And the slightly older dude, Erez Tal, came off as a bit creepy. Was I the only one thinking that?

The postcards were really well produced, with all the participants having previously travelled to Israel to film them. Loved how the triangle from the logo was incorporated, and how at the end of each postcard it became part of the stage lighting, in the colours of each nation’s flag. Apparently Australia’s singer Kate was injured during filming. She fell whilst wearing what she admits was a poor choice of footwear – high heels whilst walking on cobbled streets. She has clearly recovered well, because her performance and staging was *everything*, wasn’t it? It’s top three in the betting odds. Don’t panic, if it does win Australia don’t get to host. We’ll be somewhere in Europe.

Here’s the recap from last night…

And the ten countries through to the Grand Final on Saturday are…

Greece – Katerine Duska with Better Love

Belarus – ZENA with Like It

Serbia – Nevena Božović with Kruna

Cyprus – Tamta with Replay

Estonia – Victor Crone with Storm

Czech Republic – Lake Malawi with Friend Of A Friend

Australia – Kate Miller-Heidke with Zero Gravity

Iceland – Hatari with Hatrið mun sigra

San Marino – Serhat with Say Na Na Na

Slovenia – Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl with Sebi

Seriously, San Marino?! Now that was a (pleasant) surprise. Say yes, yes, yes, obvs! Jon Ola Sand – you know, the guy who runs the whole thing – has tweeted that there were just two points between 10th and 11th positions in the overall vote, with the professional juries and televoting public agreeing on 8/10. Seems like Serhat got the benefit of the public vote.

So, overall, what did we take away for the show last night?

 We got the first costume reveal, thanks to Cyprus’s Tamta

 The man bun is (sadly) not dead in Hungary (although they now are in the competition)

 During Slovenia’s performance she did all the work whilst he just stood there. Typical bloke…

 Serbia gave us an Angelina Jolie flash of leg

 There’s no danger of a stage invasion this year, with the audience being kept away by height if not by distance

 Iceland’s BDSM stylings didn’t overshadow what was actually a very well-staged performance

 Portugal? No, me neither!

 Dana International looked like she was lip-synching

 The green room is located in a separate arena, not in with the audience as in previous years

 This year, Eurovision really is down with the kids, isn’t it…

I got 7/10 on my napkin of death – how about you? I replaced Serbia with Poland (dammit) and removed Belgium – which was a nervous performance, wasn’t it. I loved how the Estonian guy looked genuinely relieved at the end of his performance and he was buzzing when his place in the final was announced.

One more thing on all things Iceland. It has occurred to me that this isn’t the first time that Iceland have sent a bit of leather to the Eurovision stage. Way back in 1997, when the UK last won, Paul Oscar was the final song of the night, and it got everyone’s attention. Terry Wogan even got in a fluster – so much so that he actually talked over it whilst it was being performed. The land of leather indeed, and we’re not just talking about the sofa…

** escandaloso **  🙂

I’m back soon with my pre-view of tomorrow’s second semi-final…

ESC2019: Wake Me Up before a Eurovision go-go…

Tonight sees the first of the two semi-finals. Fans in the UK will be watching on BBC4 at 8pm. I will do what I did last year which was to watch the live feed via the esc.tv YouTube channel on my telly. I can live without the dire commentary from Scott Mills. I’d rather just have super-fan Rylan on his own. Also, the Beeb don’t show the interval acts, and that’s a shame as some are quite good (yes, some have been *awful*, I know that!). I’m after as much of a complete ESC package as I can get, seeing as I’m not there.

So, here are my thoughts on the songs taking to the stage on Tuesday night. And what a stunning stage it is!

01  Cyprus

Tamta – Replay

Runners-up last year, Cyprus are hungry to go one better this year. So hungry to repeat the success of last year that they have pretty much sent the same song! Replay is a repeat! It uses the same songwriters and creative crew from last year. Casual viewers will have forgotten that, but this is essentially Fuego II. That said, I love it. The rehearsal footage sounds a bit pitchy, and the offstage backing vocalists seem to be doing the heavy lifting. Surely it’ll make it to the final, but it sure ain’t gonna win it.

02  Montenegro

D mol – Heaven

Oh bless them. It’s S Club 6 from Montenegro! A bunch of youthful singers in their late teens and early twenties, some of whom still study together. The song is called Heaven, but I think it’s heading to Eurovision hell. All a bit bland, and with the often-killer draw of singing from second place, it’s an early school night for Montenegro.

03  Finland

Darude feat. Sebastian Rejman – Look Away

Some of you aged (sorry, I mean evergreen) clubbers out there might remember Darude’s breakout hit Sandstorm, from 2000. This song feels suitably stuck back in the day, and a little old-fashioned. But, hey, if there’s a big fanbase out there for Darude and Finish actor/singer Sebastian, it might make it to the final, although I think it will get cancelled out by Estonia later in the draw. Oh, and our first sight of a needless backing dancer, who for whatever bonkers reason is swathed in emerald-green lighting – makes her look like the Wicked Witch of the West!

04 Poland

Tulia  – Fire of Love (Pali się)

Girl Power from Poland this year. The vocal is a bit shouty, and reminds me of Russia’s t.A.T.u from way back in 2003. I like this bilingual song, but what’s probably more memorable is the really quite bonkers styling. I’m sure when we see the full performance it will all make more sense, but until then…

05  Slovenia

Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl – Sebi

Another youthful performance, and a real-life couple. This is one of my top ten songs for sure this year, in the whole Contest. I really like the more ambient and chilled vibe of the song. Reminds me a little of the French entry from last year, Merci by Madame Monsieur. Just lovely. But, oh man – that staging makes a laid-back track seem a bit dull. I was sure it was going to the final, I’m not sure now.

06  Czech Republic

Lake Malawi – Friend of a Friend

A funky little number for Czech Republic, with a youthful energy that the young people from Montenegro couldn’t muster. I loves me some colour blocking, so that’s my kind of staging. Oh, and this is the first performance this year with the ever-endangered backing singers. There are a number of entries where we will hear their live vocals, but they are singing from the side-lines out of view. Look to the very left of the stage and you will see the silhouette of the three-shadowy b-xox peeps. At least they made it to the stage! 🙂

The interestingly named Lake Malawi are surely sailing through to the final.

07  Hungary

Joci Pápai – Az én apám

Our first returning singer, Joci, represented Hugary in Kyiv in 2017. It’s the first really anthemic and indigenous song of the Contest, although there are other songs to follow that are similar. That said, Hungary have qualified for the last eight years, and this guy has done it before, so it’s probs a safe bet that he’ll do it again. Joci’s gone all Sandi Shaw on us – it’s our first barefoot performance of the Contest!

08  Belarus

ZENA – Like It

Ooh, it’s a bit pitchy and kitchen sinky, isn’t it. I don’t mind the song – I’m just not sure I really like it that much (see what I did there! 🙂 ).

By now y’all have spotted that ESC2019 is all about the chillen, isn’t it. Zena is 16 years young – and the youngest of the performers this year (that’s a hard-lived 16 years, isn’t it!?). Sometimes with age, there’s no experience. Good effort, but maybe not this time princess warrior (yes, I know it’s spelt differently!)…

09  Serbia

Nevena Božović – Kruna (Круна)

Another returning performer from a few years back. Nevana didn’t make it to the final last time, but I think she might this time – although the thing about being cancelled out by Hungary might be a factor? Nicely staged, powerful vocal. It made me laugh that she was a bit grumpy on the orange carpet at the opening ceremony on Sunday. She’s got a  face that likes to rest, let’s put it that way…

10  Belgium

Eliot – Wake Up

Belgium have found their groove at the ESC in recent years. They continue to send a decent mix of up-tempo songs and (dun-dun-duuur this year) a young performer. Eliot (no, not a typo!) is our youngest male performer. I’d place it 10th/11th place overall, so it might sneak it into the final.

11  Georgia

Oto Nemsadze – Keep on Going

Now Otto’s song really does overlap with Hungary. The major difference is the final minute where the operatic backing vocals really kick-in, which does separate it. The really dynamic staging will help the cause. Otto seemed like one of the most genuine people at the opening ceremony. He was digging being a part of ESC 2019. Will Europe be digging him?

12  Australia

Kate Miller-Heidke – Zero Gravity

I must confess that when I listened to all the songs for the first time I thought this was one of the worst entries. The national final performance had copied what several Eurovision performances had done over the years – by putting the singer in a massive dress that’s like 10 foot tall, and then had some stuff projected on it (think Cesar from Romania in 2013 and Elina from Estonia in 2018). Quite by chance (ahem) all these songs have the ‘popera’ sound, so perhaps bombastic songs such as these really lend themselves to some suitably diva-esque staging.

So, previously it was a case for me of naff staging (been there, seen that) with the slightly over-used popera sound (been there, heard that).

Well, cut to the rehearsals in Tel Aviv and it is a performance transformed, with probably the best staging I’ve seen so far. The clever (implied) references to the musical Wicked will entice those fans, and then there’s the Frozen aspect, not to mention The Greatest Showman. Ok, so the lawyers might be onto Australia for plagiarism, but for now this is one to watch and 100 percent through to the final. Oh, and that ear worm of ‘Ze-e-e-e-e-e-e-e e-ro, Gra-a-a-a-a-a-avity’ is gonna get into your head, trust me!

13  Iceland

Hatari – Hatrið mun sigra

There are some entries in the Contest this year that are really engaging with modern themes of identity, acceptance and being true to one’s self – I’m thinking specifically of the French entry this year (more on that to follow). Then there are those that are just trying to court controversy by being seemingly boundary breaking. With their BDSM stylings and anti-capitalist lyrics (because you understand Icelandic, right?!) Hatari also think they are engaging with modern themes of identity. Well, maybe. The funny thing is that this has made it onto the ESC stage in a more tempered version than at the initial national final performance. The edges have been taken off it, and actually whilst it’s going to appear edgy, I find it all rather childish. Yeah, it’ll get to the final, but there’s a bit of me hopes that it doesn’t. BTW, I  love the track’s underlying pace and melody, but I don’t dig the vocal.

14  Estonia

Victor Crone – Storm

This is not the first time that Estonia have sent a Swedish singer to represent them at the ESC. Back in 2002 Sahlene represented them, which caused a little bit of controversy back in Estonia. Well, in 2019 it’s the turn of Victor, with his mid-tempo pop song that should cancel out Finland’s Darude. This song is also a little dated, but of the two I prefer this performance and performer.

15  Portugal

Conan Osiris – Telemóveis

OMG. I can’t deal. I’m like the Martian’s when I hear this song.

I do like the singer, Conan, who seems like a more high-fashion version of former winner Conchita, and looks like the hair stylist on Queer Eye. But that song…

16  Greece

Katerine Duska – Better Love

It was a bit of a shock when Greece failed to qualify last year. This year they are BACK, with a song that’s got a whole load of familiar hooks – please tell me what they are! This is a really good pop song, a great vocal, a great place in the draw and great staging. Through for sure. In the parallel universe where Adele and Sam Smith had a child, their kid would sound like this.

17  San Marino

Serhat – Say Na Na Na

And for our final course, some fromage. You’ve gotta love a bit of cheese at the end of a banquet. Bless him, Serhat represented San Marino a few year back, narrowly missing out on a place in the final. Hey, you never know – by this time in the proceedings, and with next to no proper euro-pop/euro-camp in this draw (this year in fact), we might all be saying yes, yes, yes… although it’s probs going to be no, no, no…

Et voila!

So these are our choices for tonight. I’ve got 11 on my list so I need to narrow it down to ten qualifiers. Remember I’m seeing what you see for the first time tonight – the full performances – so something might change. I will post my napkin of death during the interval, so pop by blog and see what I’ve decided, and see if we agree. But for now I fancy these countries:

Cyprus, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Serbia, Belgium, Georgia, Australia, Iceland, Estonia, Greece. Happy to see Iceland out and Slovenia in, but Slovenia might be too dull. Let’s see…

Enjoy your first night in the euro-bubble. Have fun and speak tomorrow, eurochums!

[‘Ze-e-e-e-e-e-e-e e-ro, Gra-a-a-a-a-a-avity’]

🙂 xx

 

 

ESC2019: Sweet dreams are made of this…

שלוםJ

or to put it another way

Hello 🙂

Hi there Eurofans. I’m back on my Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) blog once again. As with the last couple of years I have not travelled to the host country and host city of the Contest. I will enjoy it watching from home, like most of you. This year Israel hosts the 41 participating countries in sunny Tel Aviv. By all accounts an amazing city on Israel’s Mediterranean coast.

Whilst I’m not at the rehearsals and bringing you all the scoop from inside the ‘Eurovision bubble’, I’ve still got some opinions on the runners and riders this year, and I’ll be pre-viewing and re-viewing what happens in Tel Aviv this week. See if you agree with me. I’ve also got ‘my man in Tel Aviv’ who will be sending me some pics and the goss from Tel Aviv.

And yes, regular readers, Sweden are in the mix and one of my favourites!

Our main task during the week is to predict the ten semi-finalists from each of the two semi-finals that will progress to the Grand Final. Yes, the ‘napkin of death’ is back! FYI, the semi-finals are on BBC4 on Tuesday 14 May and Thursday 16 May at 8pm. The Grand Final is on BBC1 on Saturday 18 May at 8pm.

As you know the ESC has a theme each year, usually through which the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) imbue a sense of community, cohesion and cosmopolitanism. This year something slightly different – the theme is Dare To Dream. For some countries, the dream will be short-lived, and you know that some of the songs are going to be a bit of a nightmare! Last year I found the first semi-final the stronger musically of the two. This year the first semi-final (as we will see and hear) is the more musically diverse of the two, with more songs not sung in English, giving a more eclectic mix of music styles.

For some people it is problematic that the ESC is taking place in Israel, for various reasons. The politics of the region is complicated and something I will not be drawn on this week. The spirit of the ESC and the principles of public service media that the EBU have established ensures that the world’s most popular music event continues to take place in a space outside of nation state politics. Music has brought 41 countries together this year, not politics. Whilst politics is played out at the periphery of the Contest it is important that it continues to transcend race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity and probably most importantly, politics. I did a research paper following the ESC in 2017 if you would like to know more on my thoughts about pop and politics at the ESC, search for “The Politics of Belonging at the Eurovision Song Contest”.

Last night (Sunday) was the opening ceremony in Tel Aviv, which means that the individual rehearsals for each country (which started on 4 May) are now over, ahead of the first full dress rehearsal of the first semi-final this afternoon. This will be followed tonight by the Jury Final, where the national juries cast their votes before the live semi-final on Tuesday night. Once again the vote is 50/50 to the national juries (comprised of a melange of music industry professionals) and the televote (that’s us folk watching wherever and however we do).

So, let’s get this Eurovision party started! My next post will be a preview of the first semi-final. Thanks for joining me once again at this giddy time for me and other Eurofans, and please do share your comments as always!

🙂