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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Eurovision 2017 Song Ranking Part 2: What Timing

This week has probably been the most dramatic weeks in Eurovision in a long time, if not of all time. I don't need to say what it is, it's actual international news and will be in the history books. The resolution might not even come next week, but no matter the result my ranking still stands.

35. Malta 
Claudia Faniello – “Breathlessly” 
Reaction: This ballad sounds lovely in a saccharine way, but this year is thick with ballads and it doesn’t quite stand out as much as the others. I am so happy to Claudia make it to Eurovision but I wish it was one of her others – remember Caravaggio?
Related Video: 
Rating: 2/5

34. Austria 
Nathan Trent – “Running On Air” 
Reaction: This isn’t really my thing, but you have to have one of these in the contest, this chillout Jason Mraz-type of song. This could be this year’s equivalent to Douwe Bob, that his song last year was much better. It’s chill but close to bland.
Related Video: 
Rating: 2/5

33. Romania 
Ilinca ft. Alex Florea – “Yodel It!” 
Reaction: I’m sorry – I can’t deal with the yodeling and I am no fun. In this year, it’s the closest thing to a novelty song, despite being by a serious yodeler. This song runs all over the place and is messy in the bridge. At least the yodeling is unique and a bit daring, and it will at least be memorable on stage in May.
Related Video:
Rating: 3/5

32. Czech Republic 
Martina Bárta – “My Turn” 
Reaction: This jazzy chilled-out song is sweet and romantic. Martina’s unique voice adds a different dimension to this song. It doesn’t stand out very much, and seems destined to stay in the semifinals, but it’s nice while it lasts.
Related Video:
Rating: 3/5

31. Russia 
Julia Samoylova – “Flame Is Burning” 
Reaction: Russia sure isn’t going to win any good sportsmanship awards this year. After this week, who knows if this song and this singer and this broadcaster will be participating in May. This song is simple but very recognizably Russian. It has an intensely catchy chorus and a nice use of acoustic instruments. The verses are a little less memorable, the is awkward and misses its potential, and the vocals seem muddled. It’s similar to “What If” and “Shine”, less saccharine but both but also less polished and ultimately less good.
Related Video:
Rating: 3/5

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Eurovision 2017 Song Ranking Part 1: You Sang?

All the songs are out and it's finally time for my annual Eurovision ranking. This year's songs are very...average. There isn't a lot that is terrible, but there isn't much that is amazing. Some of these bottom 8 songs could have been 3/5, but as you'll see in a few weeks, some of the top songs could have been 3/5 too. After this week, five songs will be profiled each week until my top 5 on the Sunday prior to the Eurovision live shows.

43. Lithuania
Fusedmarc - “Rain of Revolution”
Reaction: Lithuania hasn't been in this spot since my first year doing this ranking, where they ended up actually getting their best result ever in the contest. This year, they're warming the spot that their neighbors to the north have taken a few times. “Rain of Revolution” is kind of like “Probka” or “Here We Go” – it's got a pulse but it's not fun, it's messy, and I don't want to listen to it anymore. In a year that's trending more overproduced than not, it's comfortingly Eurovision to have something as messy as this among the field.
Related Video: This is much better.
Rating: 1/5

42. San Marino
Valentina Monetta and Jimmie Wilson - “Spirit of the Night”
Reaction: Valentina is back, with a friend and disco. This sounds like Ralph Siegel wrote it over tea. This contest was missing the typical Eurovision cheapness until this was revealed. For a song about partying, it's surprisingly low energy, more disco nap than disco. I don't want to listen to it any more than I have to.
Related Video: Someone please do a mashup!
Rating: 1/5

41. Albania
Lindita - “World”
Reaction: This ballad is so cinematic and has a dramatic orchestral instrumentation. However, the melody is just unenjoyable. It's boring and hard to listen to, and the switch to English didn't do it any favors.
Related Video:
Rating: 1/5

40. Slovenia
Omar Naber - “On My Way”
Reaction: Back in 2005, I really loved “Stop.” I really liked Omar's album out at the time too. “Stop” was dramatic and edgy. His song this year, is so dated that it wouldnt' even have made it out of a semifinal in 2005. There's something charming about its datedness, to the Eurovision fan who likes anything reminding them of it. Maybe I don't know what old fashioned ballads would connect with the audience – I was wrong on “Color of My Life” last year, but Omar doesn't have the golden/nostalgic voice that Michal did. The chorus is jarring too with some weird notes, and it's unpleasant to listen to.
Related Video:
Rating: 1/5

39. Germany
Levina - “Perfect Life”
Reaction: You know how old an eurovision fan you are when you hear the line“I'm almost a sinner, nearly a saint” line and your brain fills in the gap with “not that I would lose my head and faint.” This is aggressively bland with nothing special or exciting. The verses are nice, and yes they sound like “Titanium” but note enough. The chorus has some abrasive notes (like the “life” at the end of the chorus).
Related Video:
Rating: 2/5

38. Spain
Manel Navarro - “Do It For Your Lover”
Reaction: This has got to have the least lyrics in a chorus of theirs since 1968, but this doesn't even touch that. The repetitive chorus calls to mind the “come with me” second verse of “The Fire in Your Eyes” in 2008, but that was better. The music video is spot on: this song is meant for a sunny beach, either in reality or in your memory.
Related Video: Because "what is it?”
Rating: 2/5

37. Poland
Kasia Moś - “Flashlight”
Reaction: I got their song really wrong last year, but it was surprisingly beautiful on stage. On the other hand, I really don't like. There's just something about the tone of her voice as it hits some uncomfortable note sequences. She sounds very different in the live and studio versions, and neither really work. While the lyrics are creative, it falls back on the fire/desire/higher rhyme in the pre-chorus.
Related Video:
Rating: 2/5

36. Finland
Norma John - “Blackbird”
Reaction: This will probably be my “mistake low ranking” of the year since everyone else seems to love it. “Blackbird” creates an atmosphere…like an airplane, it's a claustrophobic background noise. The verses aren't bad but they are slow and quiet. The chorus isn't easy to listen to, unless you really like “whoooooooo sang/yoooooooou sang” etc. I appreciate what it's doing, but it's not a song I want to listen to.
Related Video: This actually really improves the song.
Rating: 2/5

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Northern Shockers

It's already Monday in much of Europe but the last national final of the day just ended 20 minutes ago and it's Sunday night here.

The most shocking upset to me this weekend was Estonia, where “Spirit Animal” by Kerli came in second. From the first moment I listened to it, I wrote in my notes “top 10 in Eurovision.” The visuals and performance were hypnotizing and “aesthetic.” The winner isn't bad – it was a close race – but this would have been stellar. In a year of wrong choices this is the biggest mistake.

“Petale” by Instinct was my favorite song from the national final in Romania earlier today. The Romanian language works beautifully with the melody of the chorus. They had a cool steampunk thing going too.

“Ástfangin” by Linda Hartmanns was a nice piano ballad turned power ballad that didn't proceed to the final in Iceland but should have.

While a 50's style ballad won in Portugal, “O Que Eu Vi Nos Meus Sonhos” by Deolinda Kinzimba is a lovely 60's style ballad. The verses sound like they could have been lifted from a classic.

Finally, of course, the Andra Chansen in Sweden had one huge upset – Loreen with “Statements” failed a second time to make it to the final. What can be said that hasn't been and isn't already being said? It was fresh, had a message, and the heavy bass was the star of the composition, like a punch to the gut.

My guilty pleasure in the Andra Chansen was “Road Trip” by De Vet Du. Yes, it's a joke entry, but it's so joyous and actually funny. This slice of 90s Eurodance is the catchiest thing in Melodifestivalen this year. The camerawork was mesmerizing. With all the blazing fast cuts jumping all over the place, it's hard to believe the action takes place in such a small space (see rehearsal video below). I hope someone out there makes an AMV of Final Fantasy XV to this song.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Hopefully Not Really Running With Lions

Enough complaining about rigged/wrong juries/televotes, here are some songs that aren't making it to Eurovision this year and hopefully won't be forgotten.

In Sweden's Melodifestivalen, "Running With Lions" by Alice had the most ambiguous and concerning metaphor since "Hope and Glory." Mans didn't make it clear enough he wasn't an actual soldier in 2009, and I Aope alice isn't actually surrounded by big cats in 2017!

In Denmark,  "Vesterbro" by Thomas Ring makes you want to go to copenhagen, with a hot synth hook.

Slovenia's second-placer BQL's song "Heart of Gold" sounded  like a winner, and by that I mean it sounds like "Only Teardrops," with a bit of "Stay With Me" in the verse. The lyric doesnt make sense but they had charisma which is not common in Slovenian entires :(. Dear Slovenia: never don't enter Maraaya-penned songs.

Moldova went 2010 for their entry but they should have gone 2009, with "Discover Moldova" by Ethno Republic & Surorile Osoianu. This song has it all, and goes all over the place. It's a three minute tourism ad and that's okay.

Ukraine's "Thank You For My Way" by Ilaria is a ballad that is kind of comfortingly throwback/dated, with a cute fantasy backdro.

I think I am too old for "I'm In Love With You" by The Ludwig from Latvia. What is this, future bass? I am an out of touch Eurovision fan that needs to rely on FrankJavCee to tell me what real kids like. This precocious voiced slow jam could have fit in with the country's past few entries. The real applause though goes to the Riga Beaver, who invented the word "destressnessening" during the commercial break.

My favorite in Romania that didn't go through was "Doua Sticle" by Zanga (not Xanga, remember that?). She had an interesting marionette routine - shades of puppet on a string?
fav that didnt go through, had an interesting marionette routine – puppet on a string?

Next week: finals in Estonia, Romania, Portugal, as well as a couple other preliminary rounds.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Voiceless Three & Beat

This Saturday, Hungary, Malta, and Poland picked their Eurovision entries for this year. Here are three songs, one from each country, that missed their chance to be performed in Kiev.

Poland's Isabell Otrebus-Larsson performed "Voiceless", a pop song by none other than Fredrik Kempe, who has left a surprising void in this era of Swedish pop domination. Until this point, his most significant contribution to Eurovision in the past 5 years was "Love Love Peace Peace."

In HungaryKallay Saunders Band gave another try after their 2014 5th place in Copenhagen with “17”.

In MaltaJanice Mangion's song, "Kewkba" was notable for actually being performed in the Maltese language. Malta has traditionally not performed in Maltese, even during the national-languages-only days, but it would have been nice to see them do something different 

Slovenia had two semifinals this week, with the most notable song being "Free World" by Tosca Beat. If only this had gone to Kiev. Yes it's a Laibach ripoff but what a breath of fresh air and stage presence.

Next week brings a real Super Saturday, with finals in Denmark, Latvia, Moldova, Slovenia, Ukraine, and semifinals in Iceland, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Sweden.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


Hungary had two semifinals this week, the first of which elmininated my favorite song in their national selection, “Deák” by Spoon 21. Apparently the performance was lacking, but this catchy synthpop-influenced hook could have been a hit.

Spain had their national final where “Ouch” by LeKlein came in third. Despite the unsual and...creative English, the message comes across excellently, and the song was catchier and more emotional than the actual winner.

I only watched a little of Sanremo (boy is there a lot of talking) but the best song I was able to watch was “Con te” by Sergio Sylvestre. Maybe it wouldn't have lit up the scoreboard at Eurovision, but it's a pleasant and emotional ballad. It looks like not all is lost - he has some Disney experience.

The Swedish public made agreeable choices in the second semifinal of Melodifestivalen, so instead I will highlight the Melodifestivalen hits medley performed by David Lindgren. It is hilarious to any Melodifestivalen fan and easily the best thing he has contributed to this contest.

Likewise, Germany only had two songs in their final, with five intepretations each. They did have a past winner's medley with a perfect-as-always Conchita singing “Satellite”.

Next week: semifinals in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden, and Ukraine, plus finals in Hungary, Malta, and Poland.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

One More Gold Night

This week only one country chose their Eurovision entry - Switzerland. Freschta's ballad "Gold"  is emotional and could have fit among the several ballads already chosen.

Of course since this blog is this blog, we have to cover the first semifinal of Melodifestivalen. Dinah Nah made it to the final two year ago with the excellent "Make Me (La La La)". Her song this year , "One More Night" unfortunately came in 5th place. This dance song is a real early 00s eurodance throwback  Not the coolest thing out there, but comfortingly nostalgic and just what you need from Melodifestivalen at least once a year.

I wasn't able to cover the other semifinals this past weekend.  Next week is a big week for the big 5, with finals in Germany, Italy, and Spain. There will also be semifinals in Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden, and Ukraine.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Gunther Is Back In Finland!

Yesterday Finland held a 10-song national final including two “novelty” entries that were actually notable and enjoyable. First, GUNTHER IS BACK! Along with D'Sanz, his song “Love Yourself” is more of the same. Gunther has not changed at all and we need a dose of him every couple of years.

Second, Club La Perse were carrying the 90's club kid look and life into 2017 Eurovision with “My Little World.” It was much catchier than it should have been and you can't say they didn't try.

The United Kingdom held their final on Friday which wasn't streamed internationally. “I Don't Wanna Fight” by Salena Mastroianni is notable for dropping the title of Ireland's 2013 entry. Did voters avoid selecting this song in order to avoid a similar result?

Next week: The final in Switzerland, and semifinals and heats from Hungary, Latvia Lithuania, Sweden, and hosts Ukraine!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Let's Go 2017

Happy 2017 and welcome to another Eurovision season on this blog! So about last year's contest - #noragerts on my top 5. If there's any song that I would have placed higher, it's Belarus, Belgium, FYROM, and Denmark. I would have placed maybe Hungary, Malta, and Norway lower. What an intense and exciting voting sequence. It was such a thrill to be able to finally see Eurovision on American TV! The downside though is that the commentators were obviously ill prepared, the picture was not in HD, and due to rights issues or something Americans cannot watch any of the YouTube videos from the live shows. I don't know if Google, Logo, or the EBU are to blame, but no matter whose fault it was it drained me of enthusiasm for revisiting 2016's contest.

2017 is well underway with three national finals having already taken place. As with last year, I will highlight one outstanding song from each national final that didn't make it.

Friday was a surprisingly good day to watch national finals, with Georgia immediately followed by Belarus. And both of them were surprisingly high quality.

Nutsa Buzaladze came in second place in Georgia with “White Horses Run”. She gave a suitably Eurovisiony performance with an unusual costume change in the first chorus (I still thought Nina Kraljic did great!). Imagine: if this had made it to Kiev, would they have horse holograms all over the stage?

My favorite song from Belarus was “We Should Be Together” by Angelica Pushnova – the schlager of the night, to no surprise. The standout performance for me was “Follow the play” by Vladislav Kurasov, 50% for the soulful falsetto, and 50% for that fringed jacket!

Albania again held their final late in December. None of the songs really wowed me, but “Osiris” by Flaka Krelani is interesting enough to listen to and look at.

Lithuania had their third heat yesterday, but “Fly” by Rasa Kaušiute from the second heat was sweeping and dramatic and should have made it through. The backdrop takes more than a little inspiration from “Rise Like A Phoenix.”

Next week has two national finals: United Kingdom, who haven't revealed any songs yet, and Finland, who have. I have a few favorites from that selection so there will be plenty to talk about. In addition, Hungary and Lithuania will have qualifying rounds.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Semifinal 2 Reactions and Final Predictions

It's finally time - in about 6 hours we will have a new winner of the Eurovision song contest.

Some late reactions to the 2nd semifinal:

  1. Semifinal 1 was better - the opposite of last year.
  2. My prediction was 9/10, with Norway instead of Poland. The actual result makes sense. Michal had better connection with the audience.
  3. Ukraine and Georgia looked phenomenal on stage. 
  4. Hovi was either sweaty or had a lot of strobing going on.
  5. I'm disappointed that Bulgaria hid their backing singers. It really could have used backing dancers.
  6. The opening number was so Melodifestivalen. Is this their typical humor without the international language barrier?
  7. I will miss Kaliopi in the final.
  8. So happy Denmark can't get through anymore with their super MOR entries.
  9. No Nordic countries except Sweden in the final - conspiracy alert!

Now, take a peek in my foggy and cracked crystal ball for results from tonight:
  1. Russia will win, at least the televote. Its semifinal performance has the most Youtube views by a margin of over a million views. It's at the top of the betting, even with Australia's late surge. And it's not doing too badly in the iTunes and Spotify charts. Australia and Sweden may be tipped because they're more contemporary, but after the last two years' televoting results, it seems televoters still have different standards for Eurovision songs than "regular" pop music. If "Rise Like a Phoenix" and "Grande Amore" can win the televote with retro sounds, "You Are The Only One" can win while sounding very Eurovision.
  2. We are headed for a 2008 result with Russia, Ukraine, and Armenia in the top five.  Actually, all of the finalists now have better songs than they had in 2008, except Sweden and the Czech Republic.
  3. Sweden and Australia to round out the top five. 
  4. France will end up in the bottom half of the top ten. He was highly favorited to win before rehearsals started, but his performance lacks spectacle and is not lighting up Youtube. Still, it's doing well enough outside of the fan circles that it will not bomb. 
  5. To conclude this season's greatest catfight, the Netherlands will place higher than Israel. 
  6. Poland will be top 10 in the televote. I rated the song low, but it's hugely popular on Youtube. Their semifinal performance has more views than Armenia.
  7. Croatia to place 11th-15th. My heart wants a top 10, and they are 7th in the Youtube views, so who knows.
Best of luck to everyone competing today!