ESC2017: funky chicken and the dancing gorilla…

After another entertaining evening, what did we learn from the second semi-final?

Thanks to last year’s hosts, Petra Mede And Måns Zelmerlöw, singing and dancing hosts might be the new normal

FYROM’s Jana Burčeska didn’t really seem to be singing much of her song

We had the first toilet roll holder frock of the competition, thanks to Switzerland

The Man Bun isn’t dead yet… sadly – thanks to Hungary

It wasn’t clear what ‘losing our Verona’ meant. Verruca perhaps, Estonia?

There was a dad dancing backing singer for San Marino

Speaking of which, San Marino – she was clearly more in to him then he was her

Key changes were back, again!

And these are the ten qualifiers for the Grand Final…

Bulgaria: Beautiful Mess by Kristian Kostov

Belarus: Story of My Life by Naviband

Croatia: My Friend by Jacques Houdek

Hungary: Origo by Joci Pápai

Denmark: Where I Am by Anja

Israel: I Feel Alive by IMRI

Romania: Yodel It! by Ilinka ft. Alex Florea

Norway: Grab The Moment by JOWST

The Netherlands: Lights and Shadows by OG3NE

Austria: Running On Air by Nathan Trent

I got 8/10 on my napkin of death. Not a bad result. Good to see Norway and Denmark regain their place in the final, to balance the Nordic participants. The hosts were a little more polished, and their opening montage of Eurovision winners done in a Ukrainian style was quite entertaining. Here’s a quick recap of how things shaked down…

So, we now have the twenty qualifiers for the Grand Final on Saturday night. What’s say we have a look and listen to the automatic qualifiers, the ‘Big Five’ and hosts Ukraine. And we’ll look at their performance footage from the semi-finals…


This is the bookies long-term favourite. It has been * for months *. I don’t mind the song, but I find the silly dance and the man in a gorilla suit a novelty that actually makes me grumpy about the song. I have read somewhere this week that Eurovision needs a feel-good winner this year, and this would certainly be that. And I wouldn’t mind a week in Rome next year..


An example where the staging and the visuals do their best to give the song a lift. A splash of summer on the Eurovision stage. I love the bit where they stand on surfboards. A good effort from Spain…


Again, nice visuals, but the song is instantly forgettable…


Seemingly the polar opposite to their entry last year, the Ukraine have gone all rock on us…

Given that there isn’t anything else that sounds like this, it might do well. Not that we will be travelling back to Kyiv next year!


I find the backdrop more interesting than the song! This vocal is a bit pitchy, and Alma looks rather abandoned on the stage. Watching a performer dance around on their own (as with FYROM) isn’t particularly engaging…

Et enfin, c’est Le Royaume-Uni…

United Kingdom

The irony is that, in this Brexit time we find ourselves in, the UK’s entry is called Never Give Up On You… 🙂

Vocally and visually this is good. Wait until 2:30 mins in, and you’ll get the big note and an effective burst of colour on the backdrop. All quite effective. I actually think the song is rather dull, seeming to lack a proper chorus with a punch. But hey, it’s not the worst thing we have sent to Eurovision! Will Lucy Jones be punished for the UK leaving the EU? Will that politics really be played out in the voting? Or will people just vote, or not vote for the UK, based on their like or dislike of our entry. Let’s see. As I type this (Friday PM), the UK are sixth favourite with the bookies…

So that completes the contenders for the Grand Final. Is there a winner in the ‘Big Five’ and Ukraine? Maybe, just maybe…

Oh, and an update from Brian on chicken Kyiv in, you know, Kyiv…

The little kid in the picture looks jazzed for some garlic chicken! 🙂

I will be back tomorrow (Saturday) with my thoughts on the Grand Final. Now, what do I fancy for dinner tonight? Hmmm…


ESC2017: the douze and don’ts for the second semi-final…

Tonight it’s the second sem-final of ESC2017. Last night it was the jury semi-final, where the international juries cast their votes. Here’s a clip of the action from yesterday…

It’s the usual pick and mix of music and performances, so let’s have a look …

  1. Serbia

As you would expect with the carefully planned draw for both semi-finals, we start with an up-tempo number. Another mainstream pop record – probably the most pop entry that Serbia have competed with. Coupled with a whiff of traditional instrumentation it’s a good pop song. A bit reminiscent on the chorus, with the melody of Katy Perry’s “Firework”, and The Sugababes “About You Now” on the verse. I’d like to see it progress to the final.

  1. Austria

You would expect the musical influences from the charts are often an influence on Eurovision entries. In the first semi Rag’n’Bone Man was an influence on the Cypriot entry, and Austria’s song has the Ed Sheeran effect. “Walking On Air” is a breezy feel-good pop song, and at least one song per year sounds a wee bit like this. I like it very much…

  1. FYR Macedonia

One of the more electropop songs of the contest. Reminds me of some of the scandipop artists, such as Annie and Robyn. I love it. I like me a bit of a cheeky double hand clap on a song, and they are peppered throughout. Nice bit of punchy pop. FYROM are nowhere in the betting, but I would be surprised if this didn’t get to the final. It’s got my vote! 🙂

  1. Malta

It’s time for the first ballad of the evening. It’s an old school ballad, with a bejewelled frock to underline this fact. A rather plodding song, it feels longer than the three short minutes that it is. I think it’s taxi for Malta… but then again there aren’t many ballads tonight…

  1. Romania

All kinds of cuckoo-crazy going on here! If you are not a fan of yodelling, this song isn’t for you. Romania will progress, because it’s a bit of a novelty song, and the diaspora will ensure that it does. For me it’s like the scene in the Movie Mars Attacks! when the sound of the yodelling explodes the alien’s heads. Yup, me too…

  1. The Netherlands

Fantastic harmonies for this song. Very reminiscent of Wilson Phillips (remember them from the 1990s). This is very catchy, if a little dated. From what I have seen the sisters are also styled in rather dated in costumes – they are more than bedazzled! Great to see that it has jumped up in the betting odds since rehearsals began. With a clap along bit and one of the big key changes in the Contest this year, I think it will progress. For the love of key changes, I hope it does…

  1. Hungary

As we celebrate diversity at the ESC this year it seems a little odd that only a handful of songs are sung in a language other than English. Hungary stands out for not doing so. Also, one of the few songs to have that indigenous flair to the music. I like it.

  1. Denmark

Denmark had a purple patch in the contest a few years back, particularly around Alexander Rybaks’s victory in 2009. Remember his “Fairytale”? Great, wasn’t it. Well, Denmark didn’t qualify last year. Singer Anja certainly has a great set of pipes on her, but for me the vocal gets a bit ‘shouty’. It’s growing on me, and it’s well liked in the betting. 50/50 for me…

  1. Ireland

Young Brendan Murray has a really interesting vocal, and great range. Louis Walsh is Brendan’s manager, and selected this song for him. Does it, or does it not, sound like something Westlife would have recorded! It even has a key change! Let’s hope Brendan gets to the final…

  1. San Marino

San Marino have a habit of sending songs that are a bit bonkers, and a bit dated. 2017 is no different…

Doesn’t quite work for me, even though there was that cheeky key change. Like busses, these key changes this year! Bless ‘em for the effort…

  1. Croatia

Listen to the lyrics of this song and have life affirmed. A bit of a popera crossover song. Cracking vocals from Jacques. If a song gets to the final with a bit of welly, then this will.

  1. Norway

Back in 2010 Norway hosted the ESC, and their host theme was “Share The Moment”. This year their song is “Grab The Moment”. You may very well grab the moment to do what needs doing around the house…

It’s a song with an identity, crisis, right? And the stylings feel rather cheekily nabbed from Daft Punk, et al. Not for me…

  1. Switzerland

This is rather derivative of Rihanna, but I love it. Sure, it’s one of the many “female vocal with drums” songs, but in this draw it stands out for me. It’s nowhere in the betting, so I’ll be interested to see it on the Eurovision stage. It’ll make it or break it…

  1. Belarus

This is charming…

… and a song that, during the first listen, you will be singing along with before the end – which is a bonus for songs in this competition. A finalist, surely?

  1. Bulgaria

Last year I just didn’t get the Australian entry until after the competition, even though it was one of the hot faves. I’m the same with this song from Bulgaria this year. It’s top three in the betting odds. I came to love the Australian entry last year, but I’m not quite there with this song… so far…

  1. Lithuania

A bit of a hot mess, vocally, musically and visually. The draw might kill it off? Last year the UK public voted Lithuania their favourite song. I can’t see that happening this year. Taxi for Lithuania…

  1. Estonia

Koit Toome and Laura duet for Estonia, and it seems they are lost in Verona. Nice vocals. But I’m a little bored with the song. Is it going to be lost in the draw?

  1. Israel

And finally, we turn to Israel to do what Israel have a habit of doing with their Eurovision formula: an uptempo pop song performed by an attractive man. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That said, the formula needs a more interesting song this year. Much like the Greek song, this is dated europop/EDM. But the formula usually get’s Israel to the final… The running order has probably helped it get to the final…

I think that this semi-final is the harder of the two to predict, as is usually the case every year. As on Tuesday night I’m going to decide my napkin of death top ten qualifiers during the show, and I’ll post it in the comments section below. See what you think later tonight.

My next review will be of the ‘Big Five’ and host country Ukraine. I’ll drop that tomorrow, but in the meantime remember that Eurovision is a marathon and not a sprint. Go grab your sneakers… and enjoy the show tonight! (BBC4 at 8pm in the UK, or live streamed on YouTube)





ESC2017: Kyiv is calling…

After an entertaining evening, what did we learn from the first semi-final?

Key changes are back, b-a-c-k, B-A-C-K!

Belgium’s Blanche looked petrified

Azerbaijan’s Dihaj was basically doing Lady Gaga

Finland was robbed (but perhaps a little too simple in terms of staging?)

Men without socks were quite popular

There was a man with a horse head on

There was a man with a horse head on standing on a ladder

The presenters were just awful!

These are the ten qualifiers…

Moldova: Hey Mamma by Sunstroke Project

Azerbaijan: Skeletons by Dihaj

Greece: This Is Love by Demy

Sweden: I Can’t Go On by Robin Bengtsson

Portugal: Amar Pelos Dois by Salvador Sobral

Poland: Flashlight by Kasia Moś

Armenia: Fly With Me by Artsvik

Australia: Don’t Come Easy by Isaiah

Cyprus: Gravity by Hovig

Belgium: City Lights by Blanche

I got 7/10 on my napkin of death. How did you do? I’d have had more if I hadn’t taken out Greece and Poland after I’d seen them performed on the ESC stage. I thought Georgia sounded a lot better with the ESC performance, and was * gutted * when Finland didn’t get through, and slightly surprised Belgium did with that performance (although I like the song).

My Eurovision companion for many years, Brian Singleton, has popped over to Kyiv for the semi-finals. I asked for some photies of the scene in the venue, and he has obliged…

The stage looks amazing – the only thing I am missing about not going this year is that I don’t see the stage in person. Still, it looks fab on the telly. Brian informs me that the venue is actually quite small. By the magic of telly it doesn’t look tiny, does it?!

It’s also very cute that on his first night in Kyiv he had chicken Kiev for dinner! When in Kyiv, and all that… 🙂

No major changes in the betting odds. The UK has advanced a couple of places, but Italy are still the bookies fave.

And so, next thing for me to do is to review the second semi-final. Back soon…



ESC2017: time for the first semi-final to Rise Like A Phoenix…

It’s almost time for the first semi-final of ESC2017, broadcast in the UK at 8pm on BBC4. I’m actually going to watch the YouTube live stream – I can’t stand the inane commentary from Scott Mills, so I’ll stream from the YouTube feed on my telly.

Not much movement in the betting odds since the Jury final last night. Italy are still favourites to win. Good news for the UK is that Lucy Jones has impressed during rehearsals, and she is now in the top ten! More from me on Lucy and the other automatic qualifiers in a couple of days…

Whilst I’m not in the venue this year, the stage looks stunning…

Great visuals, and I love the logo and the use of the beads motif. A nice bit of graphic design, as always. are encouraging all the Eurofans to get involved on social media tonight. Me, I still don’t use twitter, but I’m sure a lot of you will be tweeting and getting involved. Here’s a reminder of the hashtags to use…

I have appreciated the coverage from the website this year. The daily updates are really helpful, with a daily video recap of what’s occuring. Check them out if you want the info I just can’t provide this year… 🙂

So, enjoy the music, the frocks and the drama tonight! I will post my ‘napkin of death’ with who I think will progress to the Grand Final during the voting sequence, and before the results, naturally. Let’s see who are the douze and who are the dont’s for round one…



ESC2017: the first semi-final. Ooh, aah… just a little bit…

Ok, so I’m doing things differently this year. In the absence of the backstage scoop and having seen none of the rehearsals, this first review is based on my impression of the songs based on what the songs sound like. I have tried to avoid some of the visuals from the music videos, as many this year are really distracting, and the visuals make the songs sound worse than they actually are. So, here goes…

BTW, you can watch the first semi-final of ESC2017 on Tuesday 9 May, on BBC4 at 8.00pm in the UK, or streamed online via

Here we go then… and it couldn’t be a more perfect start, for me…

  1. Sweden

The first song for ESC2017 is from Sweden’s Robin Bengtsson, with the suitably (literally – they perform in suits) fabulous “I Can’t Go On”. A cracking pop song, with slick moves and played well to the camera. A certainty to get through to the final. At the Melodifestivalen final back in March it was the international jury vote that guaranteed victory, and a place on the Eurovision stage. Surely a good sign. And he is, indeed, freakin’ beautiful, which helps. And you will know which word freakin’ has replaced since the original performance at Melodifestivalen… * ooh, the drama *…

And regular readers will expect me to want the Swedish entry to win. And yep, true to form I would be quite happy if the first song we hear this week is the last one we hear…

  1. Georgia

It’s hard to escape the title of this song. Yep, it’s “Keep The Faith”, for sure. The first belter of a ballad of this semi-final, and you know there are more to come, for sure. Tamara certainly gives it some welly. I can’t get on board with the lyrics. You know when English lyrics really sound like broken English, and the effect feels contrived and cliché. Have a listen, and see what you think. Georgia have made it to the final 7/9 times, I’m not sure it will be 8/10 this year, although on those odds…

  1. Australia

Regular readers of this blog know my view on Australia’s participation at the ESC. Well, this is the third time they have competed, and so I guess the novelty factor is gone, and they are here to stay. Last year Australia were denied victory when the televote overturned a substantial jury vote lead. It’s a strong song this year, and for someone so young, Isaiah’s got a mature and satisfying vocal. Surely through to the final…

  1. Albania

So soon in this semi-final, this song and the Georgian entry start to overlap, for me. More drums, more vocal gymnastics, but this is a much better song. The staging will play a key part. There needs to be a wind machine, for sure! I loves me some wind machine, people! Lindita is certainly singing like the rent is due tomorrow, so I hope it makes it to the final.

  1. Belgium

Belgium have regained their Eurovision mojo in recent years, with a succession of good contemporary songs. This year Blanche represents with the song “City Lights”. On first listen the dusky vocal could be mistaken for a male vocal, but not so. One of the more laid-back tracks in this semi-final. I like the tempo, and the shades of Lorde and La Roux. Is it too subtle? Again, the staging will be key in catching the attention of the juries (who * will * like it) and the televoters. I hope it gets to the final.

  1. Montenegro

If Rylan Clarke-Neal was ever to do Eurovision, you might imagine his entry would be a bit like this! The camp-stylings of Slavko Kalezić give us the first hands-in-the-air moment of this semi-final, and a bit of hi-nrg. If an entry could benefit from the gay Eurovision fans to progress, this might be it. My worry is that the theatrics and performance will detract from the song. When I listen to it I don’t mind the song, when I watch it I get distracted from the song (is it the horse hair ponytail, much?!). Fair play to Slavko, it clearly pays to stay off those pesky carbs! It pains me to say it, but I think it will be taxi for Montenegro…

  1. Finland

On my first listen to this song back in February, I fell in love with it. I was delighted when it won Finland’s national final. The song is beautiful and haunting, with a great vocal and orchestration. The song is not complicated by fussy staging, in fact quite the opposite – which might be a benefit. I am pleased to see that since rehearsals started in Kyiv it has leaped-up in the betting odds. If I was a betting man I would have put an each way bet on this to win the whole competition. I really hope that people are as enchanted by this as I am, and here’s hoping it sails though to the final…

  1. Azerbaijan

Another country with an accomplished record at Eurovision. Competed nine times, qualified for the final nine times. Won it once. I see no reason why it won’t qualify for the final this year. Whilst it’s a contemporary sounding song, I am a bit bored by it. That said, with what I hear is one of the more visually interesting staging’s in Kyiv, it should progress to the final.

  1. Portugal

Ok, so let’s talk Marmite. Some people love it. Some people hate it. Me, I love it. Let’s talk the Portuguese entry this year. Some people love it, some people just don’t get it. I, for one, can’t quite see why it’s the second/third favourite to win the whole contest…

Love that it harks back to the early chanson of the ESC back in the 1950s and 1960s. It has charm, but I am not the only one slightly puzzled by the whole thing. The singer, Salvador, looks rather unkempt, doesn’t he? Let’s see how this shakes down. Given it is much fancied with the bookies it would be a surprise to see it not progress, so I guess I’ll say that it will, even though I don’t get it. Ok, so now let’s talk peanut butter…

  1. Greece

It was a shock last year when Greece ruined their perfect track record by not progressing to the grand final. They return this year with a rather dated europop-by-numbers song, which will sound familiar to you even though you might only be hearing it for the first time. One of those songs. Forgettable for me, but probs going through to the final. * yawn *

  1. Poland

See what you think, but Poland’s entry is overlapping with Georgia and Albania. And with lyrics such as “like a bullet from a smoking gun”, this is all a bit pedestrian. This point in the running order isn’t going to help. I think it’ll be last orders at the bar for Poland… unless the diaspora vote gives it a push into the final? Probs…

  1. Moldova

Much like Greece, Moldova are resting on dated-sounding europop. Returning participants from ESC 2010, Sunstroke Project, made it to the grand final. I can’t see that happening this year. The rather irritating sax-hook is just too much for me. Adios Moldova…

  1. Iceland

There was much huffiness inside and outside of the Eurovision bubble, last year, when Greta Salóme didn’t make it to the ESC final. FYI, pop pickers, her song “Hear Them Calling” was my favourite song of 2017. You know, inside and outside of the Eurovision bubble. I know, right.

This year Svala will sing “Paper” for her place in the final. Once again, it’s a case of lyrics 101. Can lyrics really be more banal? So, a quick brainstorm for you on the lyrical themes to do with paper… what have you got? … Yep, you’ve guessed it: paper cuts and glue. All too cliché, and actually meaningless, when you study the lyrics. When this doesn’t get to the final this year, there won’t be as much huffiness…

  1. Czech Republic

I urge you to listen to this song, when watching the music video, and avoid watching the music video. The visuals will totally distract you from what I think is actually a really nice song. And someone please tell me where I’ve heard the melody before? I am looking forward to seeing the staging of this entry. I would like to see it get through…

  1. Cyprus

So if you’d like to hear Rag’n’Bone Man in ESC2017, this is as close as you’re going to get – musically, if not vocally. All a bit derivate, but not terrible. That said, is it just me? Don’t you hate it when the word gravity is sung with a soft t. *shudders*

  1. Armenia

Currently occupying the top ten in the betting odds. This will sail through to the final. If the music video is anything to go by, the performance will be one of the more choreographically-charged performances. And nice flourishes of indigenous music in the contemporary pop mix.

  1. Slovenia

Poor Omar might not have your full attention by this point in the running order. And the song, rather dated as it sounds, will probably be killed-off by the draw. You know those nibbles will need topping-up, you will need to refresh that spritzer, and the dishwasher certainly ain’t going to empty itself. I think Omar will be “On My Way” home. It sounds like I have summoned him to my house, but you know what I mean… * pats hair *

  1. Latvia

And we round off the first semi-final on an up-tempo note. Triana Park’s aesthetic is, erm, interesting. Some might say more of a fashion don’t than a fashion do. Let’s hope it doesn’t get too Avant-garde and result in a hot mess on the Eurovision stage. If the marriage of song and visuals is right, it should make it through to the final. That said, if it wasn’t last call for this semi-final, I’d say adios Latvia…

So what do you think? Can you choose 10 finalists. I will be back on Tuesday PM with my final thoughts, with a plan to live blog during the semi-final and give my final ‘napkin of death’ before the results are declared.

‘Citing  🙂 x


ESC2017: Time to Celebrate!

Здравствуйте Eurofans!

It’s Eurovision week once again – and can you believe that it’s a year since I was in Stockholm for ESC2016. Following Jamala’s victory with the song 1944, the Eurovision Song Contest has has travelled to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.  I, however, will not be making the Eurofan pilgrimage to the wonderful ‘Eurovision bubble’, having decided last year that I would watch it from home. I did the same back in 2012 when I felt like a year off. It’s lots of fun being in the bubble, but sometimes it’s nice to chill and watch it on the telly with friends.

Whilst I am not travelling to Kyiv I will be posting my thoughts on the runners and riders in the contest this year. I probably say this every year,  but I’m not feeling terribly inspired by the songs this year, so it’s a good time to be watching from home, and not trapped in the arena. I’m lacking my Eurovision mojo, but hopefully with the first semi-final on Tuesday night, I’ll get inspired.

This year the theme of the ESC is ‘Celebrate Diversity’. True enough, you will find the sights and sounds of Eurovision show how diverse our music tastes and cultures are, and also how they overlap. You will hear numerous female power-ballads which all sound the same, and there are lots of contemporary pop songs. A couple of Ed Sheeran sound-a-likes, and only a small number of countries not singing in the English language, which kinda contradicts the diversity thing, right. That said, plenty to delight and confuse our eyes and ears over the 42 entries this year.

This is the 10th year that I will be blogging, so hopefully I can still add a little something to your Eurovision once again. Please comment and share your thoughts on who you think is going to win. Is it really going to be Italy? Is a man in a gorilla suit really the best novelty of the contest? More on that later…

I’ll start with my preview of the first semi-final. See if you think the same as I do, and as always it’s all about predicting the ‘napkin of death’, and the ten songs that will progress to the Grand Final on Saturday night.

Do pobačennja for now… 🙂


ESC2016: Crimea River…

Well, I said that it felt like a surprise winner was on the cards and I was right! I said all along on this blog that I thought the Ukraine would be top three, and I am actually delighted that Ukraine has won the Eurovision Song Contest 2016.

I was having a conversation with a friend during the first dress rehearsal for the second semi-final, last Wednesday. After seeing all the acts he asked me what I thought about the Ukraine entry. I told him top three for sure. He thought I was talking about top three in that semi-final, not the whole contest. When I clarified top three on Saturday night he looked slightly puzzled, like he didn’t get why I would say that (mind you, it was the first time he had seen and heard the song). Two days later, it’s his favourite song!

I highlighted last week the political reading/subtext/lived history of this song has been dismissed by the European Broadcasting Union, and the artist Jamela. I still don’t see how it can be read (and heard) as anything other than political. Clearly it connected on that level, as well as on the spectacle of the performance (great lighting, staging and art direction, really aided the storytelling of the song). This victory particularly feels like it has captured the fundamental principles of the Eurovision Song Contest: solidarity through song and awareness of our cross-cultural differences, histories and music. Never before has a winning song felt quite so political, which should give us pause for thought today.

The separating of jury votes and public votes highlighted a huge disparity between the two, as has been the case in the past. Well, all it does is highlight that music taste is subjective, and different countries have different tastes. Some of the professional juries seemed to stick to the script in relation to hostilities in relation to non-song contest tensions, and not reward some countries for those reasons. That said, some of the televoting highlighted that, actually, the citizens of Europe are a bit more enlightened and permissive. This was probably most noticeable when there seemed to be Entente Cordiale between the television viewers in Ukraine and Russia: Ukraine gave Russia 12 points, and Russia gave Ukraine 10 points. Power to the people, indeed…

Russia’s entry never quite felt a worthy winner for me, but for the televoters (viewers) it was their favourite. I think the Australian song was strong, and clearly the juries loved it, as they placed it well ahead of Ukraine. Another strong song, with an outstanding vocal.

Sweden’s Frans didn’t quite work last night, and I was a little disappointed with the performance – he did it better to win their national final back in March. That said, this will be one of the breakout hits from the ESC this year.

You have got to feel disappointed for the UK’s Joe and Jake. I thought they nailed their performance and vocals, but clearly the song didn’t connect with the viewers – although the juries were more favourable *and* they got 12 points from Malta. You’ve gotta love Malta for that!

Looking at iTunes today, there are a handful of songs are within the top fifty songs chart: Joe and Jake (17), Frans (25), Dami Im (33), Sergey Lazarev (39). Not as many making a splash as in previous years. Then again, this is a much weaker year. I can’t see Jamala having a smash hit on the scale of other winners (such as Loreen and Måns).

What did you think of Justin Timberlake’s interval performance? Did you think it added anything – other than for the American television audience who were watching live in the USA for the first time? I don’t think it added much, other than what looked like a bit of a bromance between Måns and JT.

I thought Petra and Måns were much more entertaining than JT and many of the songs this week. In fact, other than the winning song and meeting Cheryl baker this week, they have been one of my highlights. Naturally funny, they delivered that script (everything they said was scripted, btw, nothing off the cuff) as if it were more spontaneous than it actually was. Pity that Måns’ own interval song was one of the poorest of the week, ironically!

What did you make of the voting presentation? The result was always going to be the same – but did you like how it was presented? I’m not sure. Good that there was a sense of heightened tension, especially during the reveal of the top ten – much more so than in the past few years when the runaway winner has been known several countries from the end of voting. What was bad was the brutal way in which the first 16 countries were revealed. And yes, the fact that the UK were revealed as the second lowest with the viewers was highly disappointing. I think what will help next year is to inform the viewers of how many points are on offer, so we can be doing the quick maths towards the end to see if the leader can be caught. The unknown number of votes actually detracted from that reveal.

With all that being said, that’s it for another year. I’m done (and done in!). Time to put some of these songs to bed, forever! And time to quietly reflect on another highly entertaining week. The contest will make it’s way to Ukraine next year.

I will most likely sit it out next year, and watch Eurovision week from home. I feel like a year off from travelling to the heart of the contest, and a change to the routine – like I did in 2012.

Thanks for reading, and if I’ve added anything to your Eurovision experience this year, I’m very happy!

Au revoir, my euro chums… tack så mycket!

😀 x



ESC2016: Gimmie, Gimmie, Gimmie…

I am back home, and it’s finally Eurovision day! Months of anticipation are over, and in just a few hours the Grand Final will begin and Europe will decide the winner. Russia is still being touted at the hot favourite, with Australia, Ukraine, France and Sweden in the top five.

I still think this year is gloriously unpredictable. A couple of years ago *no one* could have guessed that Conchita would win for Austria. That year Armenia had been installed as favourites for months. Same here with Sergei and Russia. It will all depend tonight whether it sounds like a good song, or it looks like a good performance, and what people vote for. If it was both, then he would be a winner for sure. The trouble is, there are still a lot of people pointing out that the song is actually a bit dated and dull, it’s only the clever staging that makes is memorable. At least Måns last year had both to ensure victory. We’ll have to wait and see.

I still think a surprise is on the cards: Sweden, Ukraine or The Netherlands…

Tonight the proceedings will have an extra special guest – Justin Timberlake. Feels a little like that will pull focus from the other artists, but at least it will give us an interesting interval act. The broadcast is increasingly longer, and now at 3.5 hours, his inclusion might actually give this broadcasting marathon a boost.

The Eurovision Research Network (ERN) has also been active during the week, as we have tweeted and Facebook-ed our thoughts and views on the contest and the issues it’s been highlighting this week. We have had lots of interest, and there is a large academic community now doing some really interesting work in ESC related areas. Hopefully EHU will host a symposium later in the year, as well as a re-launch of our website, so interesting times ahead for ESC researchers.

Set against the backdrop of light entertainment, there are social, cultural and political themes and tensions that are simmering, so it’s always good to take a step back and appraise the wider impact of this event. Yes, it is highly entertaining, but there are also more serious discussions that should be had. That’s why I’m proud to be in a network of academics doing some really interesting work.

Hopefully tonight Graham Norton will be on good form, and guide us through with wit and insight, rather than judgment and cynicism. I hear that the commentary by Scott Mills and Mel Giedroyc during the semi-finals was all rather giddy and embarrassing. Sort it out BBC! Like I said, it can be entertaining, but it doesn’t need to be a big joke.

Anyway, here are our (Brian and myself) predictions for tonight. See if you agree with us…

01 Russia 12
02 Sweden 10
03 Australia 8
04 Ukraine 7
05 Netherlands 6
06 France 5
07 Malta 4
08 Latvia 3
09 Austria 2
10 Belgium 1

I still hope that Sweden will win! .However it turns out, and whoever wins, I think we’re in for an exciting night.

To you all – have a awesome night!

😀 x



ESC2016: Let’s get Fizzical…

Eurovision week is gaining momentum in Stockholm. It feels much busier, and even for the family final on Thursday afternoon, there seemed to be many more people heading to the arena, as we made our way to the press centre. I haven’t got bored of how awesome the arena looks…

globethursglobethurs2By the magic of television, the second semi-final didn’t feel as bad at it had done on the two other occasions that I have seen it! I think a big reason for that is when the arena is full to capacity, and there’s a fantastic buzz. Also, the excitement of being at the event when it’s being broadcast live.

Last night I was once again sitting behind the green room at the back of the arena, with a great view of the contestants as they took their place to watch their competition and await their fate. It was a bit distracting at times, but also fascinating to watch the delegations watch their own artists on stage.

You know that the theme is Come Together, and that really is the case for all us fans from across the globe, at the Globe, and also for the performers. Never before have I seen such camaraderie in the green room. Even my bad camerawork can capture the joy in green room as the final country to perform, Belgium, took to the stage. How delightful to see everyone, erm, come together and support each other…

Belgium’s performance was an absolute tonic for what I think was a poor semi-final overall, in terms of song quality. You will have heard the massive cheer as Belgium was the last country to be announced to go to the Grand Final. The running order has now been revealed, and whilst Belgium closed the proceedings last night, they will open them on Saturday night. It really will get our Eurovision party started.

The big favourites didn’t disappoint (Australia, Ukraine), and as always the stage looked amazing…

stage3stage2stage4(Ukraine, Australia, Poland)

All the right songs made it through, and if it wasn’t for me substituting Georgia with F.Y.R. Macedonia, I would have predicted 10/10 on my ‘napkin of death’. Darn. Still, 9/10 isn’t bad form!

Being in the ‘Eurovision bubble’ is always special (and exhausting!). It has given me many highlights over the years, and introduced me to some special friends. This year, what is my highlight? Well, for those of you who might have read ‘My Life In Music’ in the recent edition of EHU’s Degree magazine, I acknowledged the special place in my heart (and record collection) for Bucks Fizz. I love their music to this day, and their victory back in 1981 might well be one of the reasons for my affinity for the Eurovision Song Contest. Well, on my way to the arena last night, who did I bump into…

cherylandphilOMG – a young boy’s dream came true! The absolute highlight of the week for me. The result last night didn’t matter after meeting the legendary Cheryl Baker, who is in town (as you might have seen) to do coverage for Good Morning Britain. I got a bit giddy – thank goodness I hadn’t had a drink, it could have been embarrasing! Cheryl is a *lovely* person!

What a great memory to take back home with me. This year I am flying home today (Friday) to watch the Grand Final on the telly. It’s going to be a quiet one, which is what I want. As I have said before, it’s an honour to be accredited to be here, and at the heart of the event. Thanks to Paul Jordan for help with the accreditation, and to my euro-buddy and travelling companion, Brian Singleton, for ensuring that, whilst being in the bubble is always hectic, it’s always fun.

More from me back in Storbritannien tomorrow, with my final thoughts and prediction for which country will win the ESC2016.

Hej då för nu! (bye for now!)



ESC2016: The second semi-final – the douze and the don’ts…

If you were watching the opening sequence on Tuesday evening, doesn’t it look rather like the Globe arena is being annihilated by an alien invasion? 😀 It’s the same sequence tonight, but with a different opening routine, the sylings of which are suitably schlager-tastic and Busby Barclay-esque. Lot’s of fun, with a witty musical take on what the ESC is all about.

This is clearly aimed at the American television audience, as for the first time the contest is being screened live in the USA. What they will make of it all is anyone’s guess! The musical number suggests “music is a language that we all know how to speak”. I’m sure that the music tastes of our pan-European participants will perplex the American audience…

01: Latvia

David Tennant’s younger brother does a great job opening the second semi-final. Since the national final Justs has worked on his moves, and the vocal is still strong. It got a great reaction from the young audience watching the family final in the Globe arena this (Thursday) afternoon. Should make it to the final.

02: Poland

There are two big ballads from men in this semi-final. First up is Poland’s Micha?. His vocal is on point, his hair well set, and so as long as he doesn’t get counted out by the Israeli entry, this should get through.

03: Switzerland

Rykka looks like she’s on fire at the start of this performance, as smoke emanates from her dress. It’s all a bit disconcerting really. It’s just about the only thing that’s smoking about the performance. Taxi for Switzerland…

04: Isreal

As I said on the blog before I arrived in Stockholm, I think Hovi Star has the best male vocal in the contest. The song connects with the audience, but is another entry with slightly distracting dancers. Not enough to distract from the voice and the song, going through I hope.

05: Belarus

Well, as you may remember, Ivan had requested to perform naked with wolves. Fat chance? Well, surprisingly there is the illusion of just that! Another performance using the projection trickery/illusion, all of which is well done. However, none of which seems to lift the song, for me.

06: Serbia

Not particularly on my radar before Stockholm, this comes together with an effective performance and strong vocal. Another well choreographed number, with Xena, sorry Sanja ably assisted by her warrior princesses. Should make it through.

07: Ireland

Nicky is ably assisted during his performance, with stereophonic vocals provided by the backing band. Aesthetically it all looks rather impressive, slick and polished. It makes the song feel more promising. Nicky’s vocal is a little thin, but with the back-up of the band the performance is safe. Not sure it will get through, but the family audience just gave it a good cheer at the end.

08: F.Y.R. Macedonia

There’s a slight danger that this might get cancelled out a bit by Serbia, but Kaliopi gives it some welly, and with the exception of the rather screeching final note it’s a sound performance.

09: Lithuania

Like in 2012, Danny is channelling his inner Michael Jackson (shamone!). The performance has smooth moves and vocals, with slightly questionable hair styling, and the bizarre introduction of a trampette! Lithuania have done well in the last few years, and their luck will probably continue tonight.

10: Australia

It’s a strong song, and one of the best female vocals of the week, but the staging is a bit off for me. Sitting singer Dami Im on a big box for much of the song feels a bit lifeless. The emotion of the song feels like it needs a more physical performance. Going through for sure, but lacking the impact I had imagined.

11: Slovenia

Manuella’s channelling of Taylor Swift prior to Sweden seems to have been diluted and replaced with too many distracting elements. Not the strongest of songs, it now looks and sounds a bit of a hot mess. Room in that taxi for Manuella, I’d say.

12: Bulgaria

Still feels a bit vanilla for me. We have the first use of the self-illuminating costume of the contest. It didn’t work for our Electro Velvet last year…

13: Denmark

We might need to replace the taxi with a minibus…

14: Ukraine

A passionate performance, great staging and a great vocal. Currently second favourite with the bookies. I’m sure it will have done well with the juries when they voted last night. I think a top three finish on Saturday night for this song. I’ve never been to Kiev…

15: Norway

The best bit of the song is used on the voting recap, so it doesn’t sound as disjointed. Agnete’s ice-cool styling is great, but the swtich between two styles in the song still doesn’t work for me.

16: Georgia

This does stand out as a bit of a tonic in this semi-final. I might be losing my mind now, but I think it will get through. Look out for one of the Gallagher brothers on guitar…

17: Albania

Dull staging, great frock. For Eneda, it may well be the end of the road.

18: Belgium

An upbeat end to the second semi-final. It gets a great reaction in the arena, and also a ripple of applause in the press centre. Just enough Bruno Marrs and Bonnie Langford (back in the day) to work. Youthful energy and up-tempo numbers are lacking in the competition this year, so this is a welcome conclusion to this semi-final.

Can you pick ten qualifiers for the final? To be honest, I’m finding it difficult! Overall I think the standard of songs this year is weaker than in the recent past. I know that by the time the Grand Final arrives on Saturday night we will, most likely, have a cracking show, but at this point it’s not feeling very inspiring. Good job that I am flying home on Friday night so I can watch the show on the telly.

So, it’s time to make your ‘napkin of death’ decisions. I will post ours on the comments at the bottom of this post. In the meantime, enjoy the show…

Ding-a-dong, it’s time for round two! 😀