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ESC2023

Here’s our Phil with a quick reminder…

Happy Eurovision final day!

It’s almost time…

After months of build-up it’s time for the crowning of the next Eurovision Song Contest winner. If you haven’t seen any of the performances (really?!) do a search on YouTube/TikTok/etc., and you can enjoy full performances and selected clips.

My final day in the ESC host city on Friday was a busy one, and on our way back to my home, Brian and I dropped into BBC Radio Merseyside to be interviewed as part of their Eurovision party…

I’m sure you can check out BBC Sounds for Claire Hamilton’s show and hear our contribution. We were on at about 3:10pm, so an hour and 10 mins in. A quick chat with Claire and a then we bid fond farewell to the city.

And so to grand final day!

Let’s remind ourselves of what we have to look forward to (and some songs to endure) this evening…

(source: EBU)

As I have mentioned previously, there were raised eyebrows when many of the hot faves were drawn in the first half of the draw. I think the EBU have done a fab job curating the ebb and flow of songs, even with the pickle of a problem.

01 Austria will open the run of songs. We know who Edgar is, and this infectious song is an uptempo pop song very much in the Billie Eilish stylings in places (and the chipmunk Daphne and Celeste opening).

02 Portugal have the draw of death as no one has ever won performing second. As I probably said in every other year of the blog, this won’t change this year.

03 Switzerland gives us an early pause for thought with a reflective anti-war song. For a relatively young singer this is a rich vocalist, and it will probably do well with the juries.

04 Poland provides us with a pop banger – and one of those songs you have already heard even if you haven’t. It will get lost in the draw, but I was glad it got to the final.

05 Serbia provides us with the first scratching of heads, and surprise that this got to the final. That it is currently bottom of the betting tells us all we need to know. Hard to connect with on any level, for me.

06 La France has been bobbing around in the top five betting odds for a while, and peaked up to third following the initial rehearsal clips were released. It’s slipping back now, maybe because you have seen this type of performance before. The songs is fine, but putting a singer on an elevated plinth with loads of fabric festooned below isn’t fresh.

07 Cyprus was the victor in the near-neighbourly competition with Greece. It’s not lost on any of us that an attractive performer can help sell a song. Case in question here, deffo. A snack re-filler for me.

08 Spain is definitely inhabiting the indigenous ethno-pop stylings from their culture this year. Visually quite interesting, performed with commitment, but I just can’t find the hook in it. I like the ethno-flavoured songs in the mix this year, but this one not so much.

09 Sweden has been the favourite to win with this song even before it had been selected by the Swedish public to be their representative this year. Returning champ from ESC2012, Loreen (or Lorraine as I lovingly refer to her!), is back with a much-fancied song. Yes, it’s Euphoria adjacent, however Tattoo inhabits a different ethereal space whilst still being a pop banger. And yes, there is a whiff of Madonna’s Frozen in the mix. My winner, but I am looking forward to the tussle it will have with Finland. And if you haven’t seen it, don’t worry, Lorraine escapes from the panini press in which she seems trapped at the start of the song…

10 Albania provide more ethno-pop vibes. It’s done well to qualify and might get cancelled out by a couple of similar songs and visuals.

11 Italy have a returning singer from ESC2013. The song has drifted in the odds, but has been in the top ten for a while now, which is probably where it will end up. The juries will most likely support it, but for me it’s another song where it doesn’t linger in the memory, and for people hearing this song for one time only before they vote, there might be a problem…

12 Estonia will stand out at this stage as it’s the first big ballad of the night. It will be a nice change of pace (obvs), and a lot of us were delighted this progressed to the final.

13 Finland will be the one to challenge Sweden, for sure. It might win. There are differences of opinion all round on this! Some people are automatically anti-Sweden in the euro-bubble as they’re consistently good at Eurovision. Finland offers something entirely different. I love it, but, again, those hearing it for the first time tonight might not get it. It is a marmite entry. That said, I like marmite. Keep your eye on the jury voting. If it flies with them, well hello Helsinki in 2024.

14 Czechia is a stylish performance. I like the melody of the song and it’s very well-choreographed and is visually impactful. Again, let’s see what the combo of public and jury do with it – I’m intrigued…

15 Australia give us our first taste of dad rock. It’s rerto-rock feel will connect and if they were giving out medals for committing to the moment, well… Top 10 with a good wind, I’d say.

16 Belgium are bringing the euro-party, and there aren’t many songs tonight that do. This is going to lift the arena, which will translate to the viewers at home. Sixteen songs in we will need to be! If it makes the top ten that would be amazing, but I think it will deffo be on the left hand side of the leader board. C’mon dancing queens!

17 Armenia will give you an opportunity to refresh drinks and nibbles. It’s a bit beige for me, and you know what I’ll be doing! Did well to qualify…

18 Moldova allows me to roll-out my usual line ‘will you be bowled over by Moldova?’. They always do well at the end of the day, although always poorly backed with the betting odds in the UK. Don’t be surprised when Moldova bowl the viewers over…

19 Ukraine is the reason why we’re doing all of this in Liverpool for ESC2023. It will be interesting to see their placing tonight. The song is a departure from last year, and I like it. The staging is effective for TV, but in the arena, it wasn’t particularly impactful. Let’s see how it does with public and jury tonight when we see it on the telly/viewing device.

20 Norway is another song that has been backed well over the last couple of months. It will benefit from its position in the draw. I hate it when people sell songs as ‘fan favourites’, but this has been gushed about since it got the ticket to Liverpool. That said, all I can hear is how similar it sounds to a song that competed in Sweden’s Melodifestivalen last Year. Take a listen to Klara Hammarström’s Run To The Hills… (excuse the pitchy vocal!)

And then…

Hmm. Klara should call the lawyers! 😉

That said, top 10 for sure.

21 Germany are back feeling the dad rock glam rock vibes. A bit like Finland – it’s your jam or it isn’t. Some people like jam rather than marmite. Kudos for the effort on that staging, but it’s got cliché rhyming lyrics which you might find catchy but I find irritating.

22 Lithuania gives our only Disney princess moment this year. Aah, Eurovision – always a good time to grab my Pumbaa…

23 Israel is another popular song that will deffo gain from this placing in the draw. Or, given that this is (what) our fourth pop princess, will they start to merge. And as I said to you on an earlier post – she’s feeling like a unicorn, when they don’t exist.  Top 10 all the way, maybe top five?

24 Slovenia will provide a break between the bangers and bonkers of songs 23 and 25. Well, it does nothing else for me! They might be popular in Europe, but surely it’s the bottom half of the right hand side leader board?

25 Croatia ups the fromage towards then end our buffet. I like the song, but dislike the staging. I might be having a sense of humour fail about it, that not a bother as by the time this is on screen tonight a few bevvies might make this a riot (in a positive way) for the voting public – I’m not sure what the juries will make of it. Again, let’s track that before the public vote…

And finally,

25 United Kingdom were drawn by Ukraine to play out the songs this year (the UK drew Ukraine’s place in the draw). Mae Mullar’s I Wrote A Song debuted in the UK Official Charts Top 40 the week after its release. That was a sign that this song had been very well received. It’s usually the case that, if they are lucky, a UK song debuts somewhere in the top 100.To enter at number 30 shows that in the UK at least, people liked what they were hearing and seeing.

As I said on a previous post, the performance clip of her arena preview performance didn’t blow people away in terms of the vocal. It didn’t need to. She just needs to bring it tonight. Fingers crossed, as on this now updated/remixed arrangement Mae she spits some bars, and is a tweak that some said the song needed when it was initially released.

Top 10 would be a great result. Whatever happens I hope she gets a bounce on the socials after the Contest, and if we’ll get any more songs from her…

I will report back one more time on Sunday/Monday with some reactions and reflections to the winning song and country. For those of you listening to BBC Radio Lancashire on Monday morning, I will be on at around 8:20am. They liked me so much the other day, they invited me back to do the same (reactions and reflections).

To you all who have been reading this week, and to all my friends and eurofans, enjoy tonight. This our night, so let’s enjoy it. And bring on Sonia!?

чудово провести сьогоднішній вечір

(have a brilliant time tonight!)

Phil. xx

Categories
ESC2023

Welcome to the Eurozone…

So, semi-final 2 (SF2) is done and dusted and we have now have a complete line-up for the grand final of ESC2023 on Saturday. Huzzah! There was no messing about as is usually the case with SF2, it was straight down to business. It really was a case of ‘don’t bore us, get to the chorus’.

I was disappointed that Denmark didn’t make a better impact and progress. Mind you, Reiley’s vocals were a bit weak, and he seemed a little nervous. He joins the singers from Romania, Iceland, Greece, Georgia and San Marino queuing at the taxi rank.

That said, just because they have sashayed away doesn’t mean that’s that for any of these artists and their songs. Increasingly there are breakout stars and songs who don’t necessarily make an impact during Eurovision week. Some fair better on the socials and have longevity and success beyond the Contest. Take Armenia’s Rosa Linn for example. She finished in 20th place at ESC2022 with a song that then became a viral hit, Snap. Also, following his win at ESC2019, Duncan Lawrence’s Arcade had longevity and a spike in popularity in the UK (and elsewhere) during lockdown – way after his victory at the time. We will see who is hot on the socials and the streaming platforms after we’re all done on Saturday night.

So, what did we learn from SF2?

Belgium gave us the first sighting of the lesser-spotted backing singers (and Lithuania).

Austria are channelling Daphne and Celeste vibes a little to figure out who the hell Edgar is.

Joker unfortunately not out for Slovenia (I don’t get it!)

It was fire down below for Cyprus – fuego indeed!

Cyprus and Greece cancelled each other out. Cya Greece…

It’s a family affair for Albania. All the singers are from the same family – mum, dad and the kids (awr bless)

It really was all about the ballads and ethnopop – which is good as it balances things musically for Saturday night.

It occurred to me whilst watching the television broadcast last night that the impact of the A-MA-ZING lighting in the arena (which often prompts the crowd to be wowed, oohed and aahed) doesn’t translate as much when watching at home. It still looked fantastic, and the presenters are not lacking in energy with their good-humoured script.

Once again there were a few opportunities to empty the dishwasher, as well as refresh your beverage and snacks of choice. With the running order for the grand final now sorted (included below), and with us all knowing what our fave songs are by now, we will know when to pop off and do what we need to do! 😀

Don’t forget, it’s 26 songs on Saturday and a four-hour (yikes) television broadcast, and this is what we have been training for – the final Eurovision marathon!

Before SF2 yesterday, I met up with a friend of mine, Sam Wilce. Sam is a graduate of my department at Edge Hill University. He now works for Ditto Music and is based in Liverpool. I am very proud of him as he is doing amazing things with his career (and his degree in BA (Hons) Media, Music and Sound!) which is brilliant. As we chatted, he shared with me a press release that Ditto have put out which details the most popular songs ahead of this week, in terms of Spotify streams. Their infographic tells us what they were…

It will be interesting to see how that has changed by the time we have a new winner, and then as I said earlier, beyond that point. If you would like to read the full press release, you can here.

Catching a brew and a chat with Sam in the Ditto Café was great, and as we left, I came as close as I had to the Eurozone this week. This is where a lot of fans live their best lives and party until the wee small hours. That’s never been my jam, but it’s all part of the fabric of this fan community and why fans love this Eurovision week so much – escaping the real world for a bit and entering the Eurozone, and the home of the EuroClub.

Hopefully you’re still in the zone with all this! 😀

Time to take a break, have a rest, rehydrate and gear up for the grand final on Saturday. The running order is as follows, and all things considered with many of the fave songs having to be in the first half of the draw, the EBU producers have worked their usual magic to create a flow of songs that gives changes in the type and tempo of music to good effect. Although Austria might be a bit miffed, and Croatia will be delighted. More on that on Saturday, so please do check back in with me before ‘the final countdown’ on Saturday.

(source: EBU)

BTW, it was an early start for me today. I was on the Graham Liver breakfast show on BBC Radio Lancashire just after 7:30am (they kept me hanging on for over half an hour – I was a bit miffed!). They have just called me back and have invited me to be on the show again on Monday morning from 8:00am. So set your alarm clock (I wanted a lie in if I’m honest!).

And this afternoon, I have been invited to the BBC Radio Merseyside Eurovision Party. It’s on air with Claire Hamilton from 2pm, and Brian and I are being interviewed just after 3pm. You can listen again to Graham’s show on BBC Sounds. Same for Claire’s show – listen live later (depending when you read this post) or catch-up on BBC Sounds.

My time in our host city is coming to an end. I will return home today. What a brilliant little bubble Ellen, Brian and I have had this week. It’s been eurotastic! xx

Check back for my next post on Saturday afternoon!

побачимось в суботу!

(see you on Saturday!)

Categories
ESC2023

Surprise, surprise it’s semi two here…

It was my second and final visit of the week to the Eurovision mothership on Wednesday evening, for the second semi-final (SF2) preview performance.

There is something really quite special about the approach to an ESC venue, every time that I have been over the years. It’s probably due to the inescapable host theme branding guiding us to the bubble.

We were spared the rain of Monday evening, and given that we knew where to go to enjoy our VIP hospitality once again, we breezed through security to enjoy the buzzing atmosphere, as well as the bevvies and scran in the hospitality area…

I missed the smorgasbord of desert bites on Monday night – didn’t make that mistake last night!

Someone better call Strictly…

Having soaked up the atmosphere and the various treats in the VIP, we were off to the arena proper…

What a lovely view across the Mersey…

We had slightly better seats for this preview – just slightly to the left of where we were on Monday. It’s a fantastic setting, one of the best I’ve been to…

The atmosphere in the arena seemed even more excitable than Monday. Every song got cheered to the rafters. Probably a sense of giddiness and relief that those of us in the arena were relieved that we’ve managed to get tickets in the scrum that we were all put through! And with one minute to go, all the young folks sat around us became even more giddy…

We were lucky enough to once again have a great view of the countries in the green room…

Presenters Hannah, Alesha and Julia did a great job once again. Everything seemed to a lot more fast paced, and there was less fannying about with skits in the green room. There was a brief appearance from Graham Norton in his commentary box, so he was in the building (was he pre-recoded for Thursday night?).

I haven’t seen any of the music videos or rehearsal performance footage, so seeing everything for the first-time last night was really fresh. That said, here are a few first impressions from me on a few stagings of the songs…

Denmark’s wee boy, Reiley, opened the proceedings with a catchy little pop number. With his boyish cute looks and his pop idol pastel stylings, it inhabits some of the BTS territory that they have used in the past. Looks great on camera and on stage…

Lovely to see the reaction from the Danish delegation (his team) in the green room. The boy did good, so wave those flags!

As always at the ESC, we get those throwback songs that get us all misty for who we were back in the day, for what we were wearing, what we were feeling, and for this next song – what we were dancing to. Pass me my C&C Music Factory cassette, locate my lycra cycling shorts (oh, no don’t!), and make me feel like I can Vogue with Madonna like we all tried in 1990! Belgium’s entry will give those of us of a certain age a chance to get all nostalgic for the 1990s!

(you can tell I like it by the number of pics! )

To be fair, it gave the entire arena life! I loved it. The staging – and the images on the backdrop were very effective. Get ready for a bop!

Amongst the songs tonight there are adequate opportunities to refresh your drinks and top up those nibbles (you know what I mean). One part of the running order loses a bit of momentum, but overall it was a very enjoyable SF2 without any of the main front runners taking part  (perhaps with the exception of Austria gathering popularity and improving in the betting odds).

After the run through of the sixteen semi-finalists, as on Monday we were treated to a full performance of three automatic qualifiers: this time Spain, Ukraine and United Kingdom. Spain is well fancied, but I just don’t get it. Ukraine is stylistically very well presented, and I like the song (noticeably different in sound and vibe to last year). And then there was really only one song to finish with – yes, our homegirl Mae Muller. I’ve loved it since my first listen…

You will hear a new mix of her song – much like what happened with Sam Ryder’s Eurovision performance of his song last year. You might not be hearing what you were expecting, if you have been bopping along to I wrote A Song for the last few months. It is confidently staged, with effective images and graphics on the backdrop. My one observation looking at the monitors in the arena is that the impressive visuals at times will not be seen on the tv screen, cropping Mae and her dancers out of what’s going in in the bigger (impressive) picture. There will be no national embarrassment for the UK this year, but don’t expect the Sam Ryder success of last year, I would say.

We left our seats before the pretend voting sequence, which aided an easy escape, and to us beating the crowds leaving the arena..

I am sure some of you have already had a photo opportunity around the city, and here…

So, for tonight the runners and riders for SF2 are…

01 🇩🇰 Denmark: Reiley with Breaking My Heart

02 🇦🇲 Armenia: Brunette with Future Lover

03 🇷🇴 Romania: Theodor Andrei with D.G.T. (Off and On)

04 🇪🇪 Estonia: Alika with Bridges

05 🇧🇪 Belgium: Gustaph with Because Of You

06 🇨🇾 Cyprus: Andrew Lambrou with Break A Broken Heart

07 🇮🇸 Iceland: Diljá with Power

08 🇬🇷 Greece: Victor Vernicos with What They Say

09 🇵🇱 Poland: Blanka with Solo

10 🇸🇮 Slovenia: Joker Out with Carpe Diem

11 🇬🇪 Georgia: Iru with Echo

12 🇸🇲 San Marino: Piqued Jacks with Like An Animal

13 🇦🇹 Austria: Teya & Salena with Who The Hell Is Edgar?

14 🇦🇱 Albania: Albina & Familja Kelmendi with Duje

15 🇱🇹 Lithuania: Monika Linkytė with Stay

16 🇦🇺 Australia: Voyager with Promise

BTW, the UK can vote tonight – ‘citing.

Look out for the final interval interval act – giving us all life and slaying the runway!

One final thing for now is that the running order for the grand final is causing some speculation and comment. A lot of the hot faves have been drawn to perform in the first half of grand final. This means that France, Finland and Sweden must be performed by song thirteen. Let’s see what happens tonight, and who progresses, and then how the EBU sequence the grand final – which we will know by the early hours of Friday morning.

More on all of that tomorrow…

насолоджуйтесь сьогодні ввечері!

(enjoy yourselves tonight!)

Categories
ESC2023

Here comes the fun…

I hope you enjoyed the first semi-final. It looked great, didn’t it – and it was all very polished in terms of production and presentation. As always, the rehearsal period that started a week ago last Sunday delivered a fantastic Eurovision spectacle. More of that to come again tomorrow in SF2 (Thursday).

Fifteen songs were reduced to ten and they progress to the grand final. Did you think the right songs made it through? There are some raised eyebrows on the socials that Ireland didn’t progress. I would have liked it to, but I thought the performance I saw at the Monday night preview was a stronger vocal. Same for Malta going out – the reaction to them in the arena on Monday night made it look promising for them, but sadly they join Ireland, Azerbaijan, Latvia and The Netherlands in an early exit from ESC2023..

One of the factors in play this year might be that the professional juries do not split the vote 50/50 with the televote in the semi-finals (they will for the grand final on Saturday). Potentially Ireland might have suffered for that. I thought Serbia was a hot mess on stage (I quite like the song), but the slightly nonsensical staging clearly connected with the viewers. Hey, it’s all subjective at the end of the day, isn’t it. And as the late Terry Wogan used to say, we have to marvel at the glorious unpredictability of it all.

So, what did we learn from the first semi-final?

Alisha Dixon spit some bars (did some very good rapping) to raise the roof in the arena.

The Bucks Fizz standing by the phone box was a delightful surprise – they weren’t at the preview performance on Monday.

Portugal and Finland had the battle of the strictly come backing dancers. Finland won.

We thought that Ireland was tucking great.

Events beyond the ‘euro bubble’ are now at the heart of the ESC (with anti-war songs from Croatia and Switzerland).

According to Israel’s singer Noa, she “has got the power of a unicorn”. Not sure how that works when they don’t exist? 😀

Finland’s Käärijä was brilliantly bonkers, with a performance made “much better” with a few of Baga Chipz dance moves.

All in all – SF1 was sound!

We’re off to the preview final for SF2 tonight (Wednesday) where, in addition to the remaining 16 semi-finalists, we will see the full performance of Spain, Ukraine and The United Kingdom. Oh, and with the UK in mind, my colleague Michael Austin bumped into Mae Muller (the UK singer) and she sent us this message…

Yay Mae – she wrote a song, you know…

Right, more from me soon. Will SF2 solve the problem of “who the hell is Edgar?”…

До зустрічі

(see you soon)

Categories
ESC2023

Time for some Merseyheat …

Greetings from the host city of Eurovision!

I have travelled to Liverpool with my euro-buddy Brian Singleton, my travel companion to now nine ESC host cities (and often mentioned on the blog over the years). We have have been welcomed by my dear friend, and our host for the rest of the week in the grounds of Liverpool Anglican Catherdral, Reverend Canon Dr Ellen Loudon. Some colleagues and friends may remember Ellen as a former member of the Performing Arts department, as a Senior Lecturer in Drama. Ellen left EHU in 2006 to train as a priest in the Church of England , and how brilliantly she has done in her career since then to become Director of Social Justice and Canon Chancellor for the Anglican Catherdral. Thanks for hosting us, Ellen!

On Monday evening Brian and I attended the first public preview performance of the first semi-final (SF1). Approaching the arena the now familiar host theme branding is everywhere – signalling the approach to the mothership!

We queued for the VIP hospitality package, and when we arrived it was amazing…

This was a premium experience that came at a premium price – we got what we paid for, and rest assured that this was not on EHU’s dollar! It was a very special start to the evening. We do it all again on Wednesday evening. Like Loreal, we’re worth it…

Following the fabulous food and drinks we took our seats, and in keeping with a very good experience – had a really good view of the stage. The arena and setting as a whole looked stunning…

We had a great view of the green room where the artists take their seats after each performance. Directly in front of us were Malta, Norway, Finland and Ireland.

There are fifteen songs competing in SF1, sixteen in SF2. Thirty seven songs in total including the ‘Big five’ and Ukraine. Slightly lower than in previous years.

The running of SF1 will give you a good flow of tempo and musical textures, although there are very few ballads in SF1. A bit of ethnopop (but not a lot) and the usual Coldplay-lite song in the mix (you will know when you hear it). And there are the generic pop bangers from female singers that you know already even though you have never heard them before. Overall, enough good songs to get ten songs through to the Grand Final on Saturday.

There is more than just a whiff of songs pointing to the reality of the war in Ukraine – see if you pick up on the subtle and not so subtle messaging on this tonight.

Our runners and riders for this evening are:

01        Norway: Alessandra with Queen of Kings     

02        Malta: The Busker with Dance (Our Own Party)       

03        Serbia: Luke Black Samo with Mi Se Spava (Само ми се спава)

04        Latvia: Sudden Lights with Aijā

05        Portugal: Mimicat with Ai Coração

06        Ireland: Wild Youth with We Are One

07        Croatia: Let 3 with Mama ŠČ!

08        Switzerland: Remo Forrer with Watergun

09        Israel: Noa Kirel with Unicorn

10        Moldova: Pasha Parfeni Soarele și Luna

11        Sweden: Loreen with Tattoo

12        Azerbaijan: TuralTuranX with Tell Me More  

13        Czechia: Vesna with My Sister’s Crown

14        The Netherlands: Mia Nicolai and Dion Cooper with Burning Daylight

15        Finland: Käärijä with Cha Cha Cha

Below are a few dodgy pics from me with some observations from what we saw on Monday evening and what you will see tonight (8pm BBC1 in the UK)…

Ireland were left stranded on stage as their performance was preceded by a pre-filmed segment. Worth the wait, and you will see that Elvis is in the building…

Israel give us a very clever optical illusion in the choreo and staging at the start of the performance. Singer Noa is static on stage, but with the optical illusion you’ll think she’s spinning. Very clever, but we have seen this done before – think Sergei at ESC 2016 when he did it on a bigger scale. Ah, the magic of telly! 

You will be delighted with the staging of the hot faves: Sweden and Finland. Returning champ from 2012, Loreen is giving an ethereal and impassioned moody performance, with moody lighting and fog. Brillianlty done…

Finland’s Käärijä is the opposite – full throttle, and as he has said “It’s crazy. It’s party!”. Which it is. It’s bonkers. Good bonkers for me, and it’s been a bop on my playlist since I was asked to be on the UK jury voting for the eventual Finnish entry, back in February.

One funny comment that I heard from the row behnd me was when one of the interval acts, Rita Ora, came on stage to do her medley. The chap said, “Does Rita Ora think she’s making a comeback?”. He made me chuckle. She did a good job with an army of dancers.

BTW, the presenters are all really good this year (thankfully), and the script is well written and naturally funny. Hannah Waddingham is especially good after her triumph hosting The Olivier Awards recently. It’s girl power all the way and Graham Norton doesn’t appear until the Grand Final (not really sure why he his needed, but hey…).

So that’s it from me for now. I will report back on Wednesday on what we learnt from SF1. You will enjoy the show – newly promoted (obviously) to BBC1 this year for both of the semi-finals. This will mean that more people will know more of the songs come Saturday night. 

Enjoy the show, eurochums! Predict away your ‘napkin of death’ with who you think are the top ten songs going through. I’m less inclined to do that these days, so I probably won’t. We’ll see when the gin and fanta kicks-in tonight! 😉

Oh, and one last thing, what was the view out of your bedroom window this morning? This was mine…

доброї ночі!

(have a good night!)

Categories
ESC2023

A Coronation, a King, a Crowning, and now a Contest…

Happy Eurovision week, everyone! In just seven days the next chapter in ESC history will have been written. But before that…

Gosh, what a weekend!

If all things coronation wasn’t your jam this weekend, fair play. For me it was. 

My undergraduate degree was BA (Hons) History with Communication Studies. I was a much better student of Communication Studies than I ever was History! That said I feel historical moments that are significant to me. The Coronation resonated for me as an historical moment, and at times I was very moved by it. Mind you, I cried during lockdown when there was that advert for McCain Home Chips, featuring the two dads and their kids. I’m a wee softie!

I realise as a graduate, I became estranged from the history part of my degree, focusing much more on the Communication Studies aspect – which eventually gave me my academic career in media theory related subjects (off the back of Comms Studies). And yet, a major part of being an academic teaching media theory, cultural studies and popular music studies is that they are all underpinned by history! 

What I did was leave the study of history behind me, to study the cultural industries and what I needed to know about them, historically. So perhaps you can take the History degree out of the lad, but you can’t take the lad out of history.

Away from the Coronation, it’s time for THE Contest!

And hey, I know the history of Eurovision that’s for sure! Some of which I am sure will be part of my commentary over the coming days – including a post on UK entries. What’s your favourite? Let me know! (email: [email protected]).

Whilst my euro-mojo has waned in recent years (I will not mention that again!), the ESC is important to me. It’s part of my year, it’s part of me, it’s part of me and my history.

I was fuming in 1988 when Switzerland’s representative Celine Dion beat the UK’s Scott Fitzgerald by just one point. And I think Sonia was robbed in 1993 to finish as runner-up – talk of which my Irish friend Brian Singleton will not entertain, as Ireland took the crown that year. 

As we eagerly anticipate two semi-finals this week (Tues and Thurs on BBC1 in the UK from 8pm) and then the grand final on Saturday 13 May, as Abba’s lyrics attest ‘the history book on the shelf is always repeating itself’. And so it will again this week, and the rituals of Eurovision will crown a new winner.

I think this year is a really good competitive year for songs (lucky that for a song contest!). There are a few hot faves for us to keep our eyes on: Sweden, Finland, Ukraine, and now France. And others. Let’s see where the week takes us!

I am heading into Liverpool on Monday, and I can’t wait to feel this part of ESC history – and I am sure it will be dead good!

Deffo!

Phil. x

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ESC2023

Songs in the key of Liverpool…

Hello Eurofans! It’s great to be back on the blog and back sharing my thoughts and feelings on all things Eurovision over the next couple of weeks.

I haven’t had much to say about Eurovision over the last few years – which is surprising given everything that we have all been through. My Euro-mojo had waned, and I wasn’t spending much time at all getting to know the songs and performances until the week of the Contest recently, so I really didn’t have much to share with you.

This year we have a home Eurovision, which is brilliant for the UK, and for our region of the North West. And who isn’t buzzing locally that it’s in Liverpool this year?

When Glasgow and Liverpool were the last two cities in the running to host the ESC, I really couldn’t see past Liverpool – not least as a UNESCO world heritage site, but also for the fabulous music legacy that the city has established.

As someone living in Burscough and working in Ormskirk, Liverpool’s Eurovision is on my doorstep, so I need to get involved and have something to say. So I will!

I will be blogging from home, work and Liverpool over the coming days. I didn’t apply for accreditation, so I will not be reporting from the press centre as I have in the past. No bother though, I will be in the arena for the Monday and Wednesday night previews of the semi-finals, so I will be able to share that experience with you, as well as my take on the songs participating this year. I will also be out and about in Liverpool through the week, and have the pleasure of staying with my good friend Canon Ellen Loudon, in her home in the grounds of Liverpool Cathedral. No Airbnb/hotel nightmare prices for me!

As always, I would love for you to comment and get involved. See if you agree with my take on the songs the year. I mean, Sweden are going to win, right… (I always say that!)

Here’s to a boss ESC2023!

Phil. x

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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

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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

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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