National Final Season in Review 2019: Our Favorite Songs

Let’s face it: summertime may be nice for a lot of reasons, but it is the utter doldrums for Eurovision fans. Sure, you can wait with bated breath over the next twist in the search for a host city. Or, if you’re lucky, the EBU will announce which U.S. broadcaster has snatched up the American rights to the Song Contest in the latest vain attempt to make Eurovision a mainstream thing in the States. Otherwise, all we can do is compile wishlists of acts that we would love to see at Eurovision and endlessly replay performances from the most recent year gone by.

That’s why we have rummaged through our notes and revisited the songs from the national finals that we highlighted with enthusiastic asterisks. Do the songs that struck us as hidden gems in March still shine brightly in the July sun? Or were they just fool’s gold that only glittered in a national final that was covered in the mud of mediocrity?

As it turns out, we’ve already covered a few of our favorite songs elsewhere on the site, so we’ll just link to our original posts:

“2000 and Whatever” is our absolute favorite song this year, but running second is Silvàn Areg’s “Allez Leur Dire.” He and co-writer Doutson originally called their song “Le Petit Nicolas” after the children’s book series, but the copyright owners of the books didn’t appreciate the shout-out. Between the Destination Eurovision semifinal and final, Silvàn changed the song title to “Allez Leur Dire.” But he kept the delightful, and delightfully low-tech, staging inspired by the books. The result is probably the most unapologetically French song you will hear this year.

Swedish singer Mohombi had a platinum hit in Europe with his 2010 single “Bumpy Ride.” He entered Melodifestivalen this year with the charming pop confection “Hello.” The song and the staging weren’t particularly ground-breaking, but the total package was a lot of fun. “Hello” will likely be one of those songs that randomly pops up in our heads years from now.

The first thing we noticed when Leea Nanos began her performance at Australia Decides was that she was an inexperienced stage performer. That was to be expected as she is just sixteen. But the next thing we noticed was that her song “Set Me Free” was really good. Give her some more time in front of a big live audience and show her how to smize and she could be great.

We admit that we didn’t expect much of Ivan Kurtić when he hit the stage at Beovizija 2019. He may look like a bouncer at a Belgrade river club, but he is a heckuva singer. “Bela” reminded us of our favorite Željko Joksimović ballads, and it had a bouncy, vibrant orchestration that gave Ivan room to maneuver.

We’re big fans of k.d. lang, so that may be why Fed Horses caught our attention at EMA 2019.Ti Ne Poznaš Konjev” sounds like something out of k.d.’s back catalog, if she ever did an album where side two was entirely in Slovenian. It operates in the same space as this year’s Latvian entry “That Night‎,” but Fed Horses gives their song a grandness and a sense of scope that Carousel’s song lacked.

Is it cliché for a Eurovision blog to include two Swedish songs in its list of faves? Yes, it is, but we don’t mind being clichéd. The Lovers of Valdaro did not made it out of their Melodifestivalen heat, probably because our household seems to be the primary market for their song “Somebody Wants.” It has a lot of stuff we love: mid-era Pet Shop Boys orchestration, neo-disco flair, and rich, thumping bass lines. It’s far from perfect, we’ll forgive it because they wrote it just for us.

 

National Final Season in Review 2019: Our Favorite WTF Moments

It has been a good year for those of us who collect WTFery from the national finals. We had a tingly feeling about 2019 the moment we heard that the United Kingdom’s 2006 representative Daz Sampson had teamed up with a singer named Nona to enter the Belarus pre-selection with a song called “Kinky Boots.”

Lest we were worried about peaking too soon, Lithuania topped “Kinky Boots” and then some with Banzzzai’s ultimate masterpiece of self-aware obliviousness, “I Don’t Care.” The love child of Psy and Anri Jokhadze, Banzzzai heard that old inspirational quote, “Dance like no one is watching,” and added ninjas to it. Plus he had a flashing neon milkshake and he scatted. It was fabulous.

France gave us Battista Acquaviva’s “Passio.” Imagine if Enigma wrote “La Forza” and you have a sense of how “Passio” sounded. That couldn’t prepare you for the live performance. Battista’s vocal was wispy and thin and her stage presence was stiffer than the main characters at the end of Reservoir Dogs. She was joined by shirtless guys doing calisthenics, which seemed gratuitous. We appreciated the eye candy anyway. France 2 has inexplicably pulled all of the Destination Eurovision videos off of YouTube, so we’re not entirely sure we didn’t dream this.

Updated 7/3/2019: Eric Graf has helpfully linked to a video of “Passio” in the comments, confirming that was no dream!

Heading up to Denmark, Teit Samsø’s “Step It Up” would have been uncomfortably sleazy in the best of circumstances. But Teit’s oily performance gave us the effect of a drunk uncle hitting on his niece while chaperoning her to her junior prom.

We whined all this year about how Eesti Laul had lost its spark, but that doesn’t mean the Estonia national final was completely devoid of colorful weirdness. Kaia Tamm’s entry “Wo sind die katzen?” was probably the best song ever about how Alice In Wonderland is a metaphor for Schrödinger’s cat and vice versa.

And Eurovision Lemurs favorite Jaan Pehk returned to Eesti Laul with Cätlin Mägi to perform “Parmumäng.” The staging featured Jaan’s head transposed onto a rack of mouth harps. This is only slightly less odd than it sounds, and the song sounded awesome live. Keep coming back, Jaan!

Speaking of songs that were brilliant and bizarre at the same time, let’s end in Latvia. Is there a more joyful expression of feeling like an outcast than Dzili Violets and Kozmens’ goofy and relentlessly catchy “Tautasdziesma?” The staging only really makes sense if you’ve seen the official video. Then again, making sense wasn’t really a part of the plan. Kozmens, the guy with the kilt and the spectacular mustache, is the man behind WTF mainstay Riga Beaver. “Tautasdziesma” is a worthy addition to his already notable Supernova legacy.

The 2019 Eurovision That Almost Was: Semifinal Two

You would think that our review of the Semifinal Two that might have been would have been easy given that eight of the countries listed here went for internal selections. But spend some time contemplating “Tower of Babylon” and you may understand the enormity of the task we are undertaking.

Armenia: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Ireland: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Moldova: Maxim Zavidia – “I Will Not Surrender

“I Will Not Surrender” is a moderately rocking pop number about believing in yourself. It’s made special by the fact that Maxim is dressed like a Star Wars character yearning to break free from the corporate job he got on Coruscant.

Switzerland: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Latvia: Markus Riva – “You Make Me So Crazy

This is Markus’ sixth attempt to represent Latvia at Eurovision and “You Make Me So Crazy” is one of his stronger efforts. Unfortunately for him, he had the best dance anthem out of several others on offer at Supernova and everyone in Latvia voted for the song that did not sound like a dance anthem.

Romania: Laura Bretan – “Dear Father

Laura is a 17-year-old who has already won Romania’s Got Talent and finished sixth on America’s Got Talent. She does a Houdek in “Dear Father,” going from pop voice to operatic soprano at the song’s climax. We think it’s pretty awful, so we’re not complaining too much that TVR gave their international jury way too much say in determining the winner of their national final.

Denmark: Julie & Nina – “League of Light

“League of Light” is a real missed opportunity. Julie & Nina are from Greenland and they spiced up their bland schlager song with some lyrics in Greenlandic. It operates in the same space as KEiiNO’s “Spirit In the Sky,” except that “Spirit In the Sky” goes all in while “League of Light” just checks on the flop. As much as it pains us to say this, “Love Is Forever” was the right choice to represent Denmark.

Sweden: Bishara – “On My Own

Bishara is a 16-year-old singer who is performing a song that is way more mature than his immature voice and angelic looks can carry off. Not surprisingly, “On My Own” is by Benjamin Ingrosso, who knows a lot about singing songs that are uncomfortable fits for their performer.

Austria: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Croatia: Lorena Bućan – “Tower of Babylon

Oh wow. If you thought that the only thing missing from mid-’00s mid-table Eurovision pop entries were vaguely Middle Eastern-influenced orchestrations, then have we got a song for you! Lorena sells it for all it is worth, though, which just makes it all the more wonderful.

Malta: Owen Leuellen – Song internally selected.

Owen covered “Gangsta’s Paradise” during X Factor Malta. He also rhymed “Picasso,” “lost bro,” and “not slow” with “Ira Losco” in the finale. Honestly, he’s kinda delightful. Maybe a bit wack, but kinda delightful.

Lithuania: Monika Marija – “Light On

As much as we like it when Jurijus peers deep into our soul, we had been rooting for Monika to win the Lithuanian national final. “Light On” has a bit more of a lyrical edge to it than “Run with the Lions,” and Monika delivered a big performance that could have been honed to near perfection by the time she arrived in Tel Aviv.

Russia: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Albania: Lidia Lufi – “Rrëfehem

“Rrëfehem” starts off sounding like weird fado. Then it gets all Albanian orchestral metal. Then Mike Pompeo shows up to do a big-ass sax solo at the end. It’s really odd, which is something we seem to say about Festivali i Këngës also-rans every year.

Norway: Adrian Jørgensen – “The Bubble

Adrian and his guitar evoke Ed Sheeran via Michael Schulte.  Saying that probably doesn’t give “The Bubble” enough credit for being a pretty good folk-pop song, but let’s be honest: it’s not “Spirit In the Sky,” is it?

The Netherlands: Internal selection. Not applicable.

North Macedonia: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Azerbaijan: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Germany: Makeda – “The Day I Loved You Most

If S!sters performed an overwrought show tune at Unser Lied, Makeda performed an overwrought cabaret number. She over-sang it by a country mile, so we suspect Germany’s Eurovision fate was sealed from the get-go.

Italy: Ultimo – “I tuoi particolari

“I tuoi particolari” has a really simple chorus that frequently gets stuck in our heads, but after while it feels like Ultimo is yelling at us within our own brains. Not cool, Ultimo, get out of our skulls!

United Kingdom: No 2nd place announced. Not applicable.

As usual, the BBC never released the voting tallies for You Decide. It’s basically one more thing to be annoyed about when thinking about how the BBC handles its Eurovision entry year in and year out.

The 2019 Eurovision That Almost Was: Semifinal One

We had some serious questions at the end of this year’s first Semifinal: Did anyone want to qualify? Would MARUV been any better if Ukraine hadn’t pulled out? And were there better songs everyone could have sent?

We will never know the answers those first two questions, but we can imagine the answer to the third one by looking back at the also-rans from the national final season. We are also looking at the Big Six entries who voted in Semifinal One since Eurovision shows clips of their jury performances during the interval while the EBU rushes to declare a valid result without necessarily paying attention to which jurors clearly screwed up their ballots.

Cyprus: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Montenegro: Ivana Popović-Martinović – “Nevinost

“Nevinost” is a standard issue ballad from the Balkan peninsula. It doesn’t have as much personality as Ivana does, so we’d love to see her come back with a song that has a bit more pizzazz.

Finland: Darude feat. Sebastian Rejman – “Superman

To be honest, there wasn’t a lot of difference between the three songs on offer at UMK 2019. If you can remember how “Look Away” sounded, you can guess how “Superman” sounded.

Poland: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Slovenia: Raiven – “Kaos” 

We are still irrationally angry about this. Let’s just move on.

Czech Republic: Jakub Ondra – “Space Sushi

If this hadn’t finished second in the Czech Republic’s voting, we’d be considering it for our WTF posts. It’s an odd little Mrazy number with a nonsensical chorus that we think is about believing in yourself. It’s kind of mesmerizing in its goofiness.

Hungary: Acoustic Planet – “Nyári zápor

As usual, Hungary hasn’t released the final A Dal televote tallies. However, Acoustic Planet finished second with the jury, so we’ll go with them. You can probably figure out how they sound by the name of their band. It’s the type of bland pop song that you’d expect to hear on the soundtrack to a mid-90s dramedy about someone visiting their parents for the first time in a decade. Specifically the scene where they drive up to the family home just after a picturesque New England snowfall.

Belarus: BLGN & Mirex  – “Champion

What happens when you cross JOWST with ZIBBZ? You get BLGN & Mirex, and it’s not too shabby! Maybe it’s a bit mealy in execution, but Mirex is a pretty good vocalist and has a pretty good stage presence. It’s easy to understand why “Champion” lost to “Like it,” but we still enjoyed it.

Serbia: Dženan Lončarević – “Nema suza

“Nema suza” is a maudlin ballad with a very mawkish anti-war staging. Not to belittle the message, but it was like getting hit on the head with a hammer made of yarn.

Belgium: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Georgia: Liza Kalandadze – “Sevdisperi zgva

Liza Kalandadze is a striking, charismatic vocalist who was paired up with a twee, ethereal ballad. It’s not necessarily a bad combination, but we can’t imagine “Sevdisperi zgva” would have changed Georgia’s fortunes this year.

Australia: Electric Fields – “2000 and Whatever

Die hard Eurovision fans tuning into Australia’s first national final had a definite favorite going into the show. Electric Fields are a dance-pop duo lead by an absolute superstar of a vocalist in Zaachariaha Fielding. “2000 and Whatever” is an anthemic dance song with a unique vocal sound and it’s the perfect song to get you fired up before you head off to work or the gym.

As much as we would have loved for Electric Fields to represent Australia, we were also realistic about their chances. They came out and did a concert staging for “2000 and Whatever.” Then Kate Miller-Heidke did a Eurovision staging for “Zero Gravity.” She had the full package and she was the overwhelming choice to represent Australia. But we’re grateful we had the chance to be introduced to Electric Fields and you should totally buy their EP Inma.

Iceland: Friðrik Ómar – “Hvað ef ég get ekki elskað?

Iceland had been struggling to qualify for the Grand Final for the past few years because they usually sent the type of song Friðrik was proffering. Better to take the big risk than to play it safe yet again.

Estonia: Uku Suviste – “Pretty Little Liar

In our view, this year’s Eesti Laul final this year was lackluster. “Pretty Little Liar” is about as memorable musically as “Storm,” but without the cheesy special effects or Stig Rasta’s name in the credits.

Portugal: NBC – “Igual a Ti

“Igual a Ti” sounds like the theme song from a modern western, and NBC sells it for all it is worth. It’s pretty good, but the whole package obviously lacked the utter uniqueness of Conan Osíris and “Telemóveis.”

Greece: Internal selection. Not applicable.

San Marino: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Spain: Maria – “Muerdeme

Rumor on Twitter was that Maria didn’t really want to go to Tel Aviv. If that’s true, it kind of explains her indifferent performance. It’s like she was still at dress rehearsal. Also, the staging could have benefited from the old Coco Chanel adage of removing one thing. We’re thinking of the malt shop counter, which Ireland later picked up at a Madrid thrift store. It’s such a bummer because “Muerdeme” is a really fun song.

France: Seemone – “Tous Les Deux

Seemone’s appearance at this year’s Destination Eurovision marked the arrival of a potential major talent in French music. Imagine Adele as a  chanson singer and you can begin to get a sense of what she brought. Annoyingly, the Destination Eurovision YouTube channel has been stripped of its performance videos, but we figure it’s only a matter of time before we see Seemone representing France at Eurovision.

Israel: Ketreyah – Song internally selected.

Ketreyah is an Ethiopian-Israeli singer who was solidly the second place finisher in Israel’s Next Star for Eurovision competition. She’s a likable enough performer, but let’s be honest: regardless of his ultimate fate at Eurovision, Kobi Marimi was kind of the perfect person to represent Israel on home soil.

Highlights from 2019

It’s time once again for us to look back at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest to pick out the most delectable moments of the year.

Eurovision Lemurs Seal of Approval

Eurovision Lemurs Seal of ApprovalEver since we started compiling our highlights, we’ve always had a category for Legitimately Good Song. We’ve also always sort of regretted calling it that because Eurovision has a ton of legitimately good songs, and what we really wanted to do is highlight something special.

So we’ve changed the category to the Eurovision Lemurs Seal of Approval, which we will affix to the song that truly captured our hearts. We came up with the idea for a Seal of Approval in 2017 when we reviewed “Occidentali’s Karma,” then never used it again. This year seemed like a good time to bring it back.

The main rule is that it has to be a song that the entire Lemurs household agrees is awesome. So without further ado…

For Our Consideration

Azerbaijan: Chingiz – “Truth”
Czech Republic: Lake Malawi – “Friend of a Friend”
Greece: Katerine Duska – “Better Love”
Italy: Mahmood – “Soldi”
Malta: Michela Pace – “Chameleon”
The Netherlands: Duncan Laurence – “Arcade”

Our Pick: Italy.


“Soldi” is incorporates hip hop influences into a contemporary Italian pop sound. It gives us something to clap along with, but it makes us work for it: it’s tempting to clap one beat too early. The chorus is underpinned with a simple, but sexy bassline. And Mahmood infuses it with star power and an appropriate touch of melancholy. It’s a stunning song.

By the way, we don’t want to take anything away from “Arcade,” which we think is another great achievement in songwriting and performance. This year’s Song Contest has seen arguably the best one-two finishers in its long history, and we can’t wait to see how these two songs help push next year’s artists forward.

Biggest Misfire

For Our Consideration

Germany: S!sters – “Sister”
Greece: Katerine Duska – “Better Love”
Romania: Ester Peony – “On A Sunday”
United Kingdom: Michael Rice – “Bigger Than Us”

Our Pick: Greece.

We adore “Better Love,” and we thought it had top 10 finish written all over it. But it was hard to ignore the whole package Greece presented. Katerine was decked out in a baroque costume that for all intents and purposes confined her. She never looked at the cameras but instead seemed to be staring at something interesting happening just off to the side. And in the Grand Final, her vocal gave out. Such a shame because we know we will be cranking this one a lot over the summer.

Least Self-Aware

Our Pick: None.

In theory, we should be giving this award to Serhat and San Marino. Yet it’s hard for us to argue that they are not aware of what they are doing. San Marino is using Serhat to cultivate for itself a cult following among the Eurovision die hards. Serhat is using San Marino to establish an international singing career that otherwise might never have been. And they comfortably qualified for the Grand Prix Final and finished 10th in the televote. Who are we to deem that they don’t know what they’re doing? That said…

Campiest Performance

For Our Consideration

Australia: Kate Miller-Heidke – “Zero Gravity”
Croatia: Roko – “The Dream”
Iceland: Hatari – “Hatrið Mun Sigra”
Norway: KEiiNO – “Spirit In The Sky”
San Marino: Serhat – “Say Na Na Na”

Our Pick: San Marino.

The way Serhat rasps, “We can take it slowly” when he sings “Say Na Na Na” is the most cringingly funny thing we saw at Eurovision this year. It brought the house down at our party.

Biggest Diva Performance

For Our Consideration

Albania: Jonida Maliqi – “Ktheju tokës”
Australia: Kate Miller-Heidke – “Zero Gravity”
Cyprus: Tamta – “Replay”
North Macedonia: Tamara Todevska – “Proud”
Poland: Tulia – “Pali się (Fire of Love)”
Serbia: Nevena Božović – “Kruna”

Our Pick: North Macedonia.

Tamara Todevska gave a bravura performance of “Proud.” She crafted the story she wanted to tell beautifully, drawing viewers in and holding their attention through the very last note. There is a damned good reason why she was the actual winner of the actual jury vote.

Eurovision 2019 Superlatives

It has been an amazing year for Eurovision and we’re kind of sad to see it come to an end for another year. Thankfully, the EBU had some jury errors to correct to keep the magic going a little longer.

As always, we like to help ease everyone’s post-Eurovision depression with our own awards to each and every finalist. Maybe this is just the fillip the United Kingdom needs to stop simultaneously feeling sorry for itself and thinking the world revolves around it!

Best Apple iPod Ad: Malta
Michela Pace – “Chameleon”

Best Attempt to Bring Back Gold Accessories: Albania
Jonida Maliqi – “Ktheju tokës”

Best Friend of a Friend of a Friend of a Friend of a Friend of a Friend:
Czech Republic

Lake Malawi – “Friend of a Friend”

Best Come Hither: Czech Republic
Lake Malawi – “Friend of a Friend”

Best Audition to Become Latisse Spokespeople: Germany
S!sters – “Sister”

Best Number from Anchorman! The Musical: Russia
Sergey Lazarev – “Scream”

Most Surprising Tribute to Tears for Fears’ Songs From the Big Chair: Denmark
Leonora – “Love Is Forever”

Most Essential Addition to Every National Broadcaster’s Classic Eurovision Camp Clip Package: San Marino
Serhat – “Say Na Na Na”

Best Way to Take Pride In Your Country’s New Name: North Macedonia
Tamara Todevska – “Proud”

Winner of the Jury Vote. Actual *WINNER* of the Actual Jury Vote:
North Macedonia
Tamara Todevska – “Proud”

Best Excuse to Quit Your Job in D.C. and Move to Sweden: Sweden
John Lundvik – “Too Late For Love”

Most Stubborn Refusal to Acknowledge the Cameras: Slovenia
Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl – “Sebi”

Best Madonna Performance: Cyprus
Tamta – “Replay”

Best Internal Monologue While Playing Atari’s E.T. the Extraterrestrial:
The Netherlands

Duncan Laurence – “Arcade”

Ouch!

Best Party Like It’s 1799: Greece
Katerine Duska – “Better Love”

Best Performance by Sacha Baron Cohen as Freddie Mercury: Israel
Kobi Marimi – “Home”

Best Tutorial on How to Find Your Spirit Animal: Norway
KEiiNO – “Spirit In The Sky”

Most Misguided Assumption That People Somehow Vote Against You at Eurovision: United Kingdom
Michael Rice – “Bigger Than Us”

The Krista Siegfrids Award for Greatest Paragon of Restraint and Subtlety:
Iceland

Hatari – “Hatrið Mun Sigra”

Best Entry Point Into the Wonderful, Mysterious World of BDSM (Because Eurovision Is a Family Show): Iceland
Hatari – “Hatrið Mun Sigra”

Most In Need of a Word to Rhyme with “This”: Estonia
Victor Crone – “Storm”

Most Ironic Song Title Given How It Finished: Belarus
Zena – “Like It”

Best Tribute to Elon Musk’s Twitter Timeline: Azerbaijan
Chingiz – “Truth”

Best Song by the Lovechild of Conchita Wurst and Krystle Carrington: France
Bilal Hassani – “Roi”

Best Bassline Ever at Eurovision: Italy
Mahmood – “Soldi”

Best Calling of Corners: Serbia
Nevena Božović – “Kruna”

Best Representation of the Plot to Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights: Switzerland
Luca Hänni – “She Got Me”

Best Use of Opera to Subdue Dementors: Australia
Kate Miller-Heidke – “Zero Gravity”

Most Puzzling Puppet Deployment Since Cosmos: Spain
Miki – “La Venda”

Special Bonus Award
Kseniya Simonova award for best use of Kseniya Simonova to distract you from a mediocre song: Moldova
Anna Odobescu – “Stay”

Most likely to get there, popular: The Netherlands, at long last!

Worth the wait!

Highlights from 2018

Our post-Eurovision depression has started in earnest, so let’s cheer ourselves up by looking back at all the awesomeness we beheld at this year’s Song Contest.

Legitimately Good Song

For Our Consideration

Austria: Cesár Sampson – “Nobody But You”
Belgium: Sennek – “A Matter of Time”
Czech Republic: Mikolas Josef – “Lie to Me”
France: Madame Monsieur – “Mercy”
Hungary: AWS – “Viszlát nyár”
Israel: Netta Barzilai – “Toy”
Netherlands: Waylon – “Outlaw in ‘Em”
Sweden: Benjamin Ingrosso – “Dance You Off”

Our Pick: Good lord, can’t we just have them all? We cut our list down to eight and we could cut no further. Musically, this year’s Song Contest was really good, with a fun mix of pop bangers, rock anthems, power ballads, and only-at-Eurovision gems. Right now, “Lie to Me” and “Dance You Off” are the ones in heaviest rotation in the Lemurs household, but picking any of these is like picking our favorite baby.

Biggest Misfire

For Our Consideration

Macedonia: Eye Cue – “Lost and Found”
Malta: Christabelle – “Taboo”
Romania: The Humans – “Goodbye”
Russia: Julia Samoylova – “I Won’t Break”

Our Pick: Russia. Romania and Russia both died in the Semifinals this year, but Romania only missed out on the Final by four points. Russia was well out of the running in 15th place, so their first non-qualification was the bigger fail. Russia’s conceptual staging seemed to hide Julia Samoylova in props, distracting dancers, and overpowering backing singers. She’s been realistic and matter-of-fact in her post-Eurovision interviews, but we think her delegation let her down more than she let down her country.

Campiest Performance

For Our Consideration

Belarus: Alekseev – “Forever”
Moldova: DoReDos – “My Lucky Day”
San Marino: Jessika feat. Jenifer Brening – “Who We Are”
Ukraine: Melovin – “Under the Ladder”

Our Pick: Belarus. Oh, Belarus. Once again, Belarus put its love of high concept staging ideas on display and delivered another classic. Alekseev and his team had a brainstorming session to come up with ideas to incorporate roses into his performance. And then they didn’t edit their list. At all. There was the cheesy idea: Alekseev hands a rose to a camera operator, who holds the rose in the shot while panning over to give the rose to the backup dancer. There was the impractical idea: the backup dancer shoots a rose like an arrow through Alekseev’s hand, FLOWER SIDE FIRST. There was the grotesque idea: Alekseev wore a back piece that looked like he had been shot (stem side first) with a dozen roses. Did we mention there were CGI rose petals that looked like blood droplets? There were CGI rose petals that looked like blood droplets. Utter magnificence.

Least Self-Aware

San Marino’s robots. Obviously.

Biggest Diva Performance

For Our Consideration

Australia: Jessica Mauboy – “We Got Love”
Cyprus: Eleni Foureira – “Fuego”
Estonia: Elina Nechayeva – “La forza”
Finland: Saara Aalto – “Monsters”
Israel: Netta Barzilai – “Toy”
United Kingdom: SuRie – “Storm”

Our Pick: Cyprus. Israel was the favorite going in and Israel was the favorite on the night. Netta was the queen of Eurovision. But Eleni took a song that no one seemed to rate coming into Lisbon, turned it into an attention-grabbing showstopper, and made herself a contender in the process. That’s what divas do.

Eurovision 2018 Superlatives

The last bit of confetti has fallen, the artists have gone home and all those stage props have been cast aside like a metaphor for post-Eurovision depression.

What better time for us to give out awards to all of this year’s finalists to acknowledge their hard work? The envelopes, please!

Most Contemporary Coffin Design: Ukraine
Melovin – “Under the Ladder”

Best Casting for a Flashback Scene in a Romantic Comedy Starring Rachel Weisz and Jeremy Sisto: Spain
Amaia & Alfred – “Tu canción”

Second Worst Interruption: Slovenia
Lea Sirk – “Hvala, ne!”

Best Musical Representation of the Ending of “Titanic”: Lithuania
Ieva Zasimauskaitė – “When We’re Old”

Winner of the Jury Vote. Actual *WINNER* of the Actual Jury Vote: Austria
Cesár Sampson – “Nobody But You”

Wahnsinn
Photo by: Thomas Hanses (Eurovision.tv)

The Aliona Moon Award for Best Use of a Projection Dress to Distract You From a Mediocre Song: Estonia
Elina Nechayeva – “La forza”

Best Lynda.com Tutorial: Norway
Alexander Rybak – “That’s How You Write a Song”

Best Requiem, Brian Eno Edition: Portugal
Cláudia Pascoal – “O Jardim”

Queen of All Social Media and Conquerer of Jackasses: United Kingdom
SuRie – “Storm”

Best Use of a Kvinnaböske: Serbia
Sanja Ilić and Balkanika – “Nova deca”

Best Requiem, Ed Sheeran Edition: Germany
Michael Schulte – “You Let Me Walk Alone”

Song That Best Represents the Yearning American Gen Xers Feel When Driving By an Abandoned Shopping Center: Albania
Eugent Bushpepa – “Mall”

Mall
All politics is local
Photo by: Joanne S. Lawton (The Business Journals)

The Annual Award for the Most Successful Theft of France’s Thunder: Italy, as usual
Madame Monsieur – “Mercy”

Most Effective Combination of Choreography, Backpacks, and Painkillers: Czech Republic
Mikolas Josef – “Lie to Me”

Best Viking Invasion of Europe Ever: Denmark
Rasmussen – “Higher Ground”

Most Contemporary Menorah Design: Australia
Jessica Mauboy – “We Got Love”

We know that it has 10 branches. Work with us, people.
Photo by: Thomas Hanses (Eurovision.tv)

The Other Svetlana Loboda Award for “More Is More” Staging: Finland
Saara Aalto – “Monsters”

Most Common Framework: Bulgaria
Equinox – “Bones”

Best “Noises Off” Revival: Moldova
DoReDos – “My Lucky Day”

The “Screw You, Guys, I’m Going Home” Award: Sweden
Benjamin Ingrosso – “Dance You Off”

Best Requiem, Pantera Edition: Hungary
AWS – “Viszlát nyár”

Best Response to the Latest Pokémon GO Update – Israel
Netta Barzilai – “Toy”

Song We Most Want to Hear Performed by Jim Beavers and Ilya Toshinsky at the Bluebird: Netherlands
Waylon – “Outlaw in ‘Em”

Best Soundtrack for Richard Curtis’ Next Film: Ireland
Ryan O’Shaughnessy – “Together”

Most In Need of Whiplash Treatment: Cyprus
Eleni Foureira – “Fuego”

Best Use of Seemingly Every Word In Every Language: Italy
Ermal Meta & Fabrizzio Moro – “Non mi avete fatto niente”

Special Bonus Award
Best Way to Order a Banh Mi: Armenia
Sevak – “Qami” … “Banh mi…. Banh miiiiiiiiii!”

Most likely to get there, popular: Israel

Photo by: Thomas Hanses (Eurovision.tv)

National Final Season in Review 2017: Our Favorite WTF Moments

Look, Eurovision is weird. A song sung by a guy performing with a dancer in a gorilla costume was the odds leader for most of the season. So an act really has to be special to get us to look at each other and mutter, “WTF?”​ Here is this year’s crop:

Sweden: Our complicated relationship with Benjamin Ingrosso

Benjamin Ingrosso is a child star who, at age 19, is trying to make the jump to more grown-up fare. And in many ways, “Good Lovin” worked. It sounds like something Justin Timberlake would have churned out in his early solo career. And seeing as we enjoy the song stylings of Justin Timberlake, “Good Lovin” has been in high rotation as we manage our post-Eurovision depression.

And Benjamin Ingrosso is an engaging performer. He was good on camera in a Mark-Paul Gosselaar sort of way, and that tooth gap was endearing. We like him.

But so much of his Melodifestivalen performance was uncomfortable. There was that J. Crew shopping spree. Since when is a lavender jumper and charcoal gray slacks a good pop star look? Then there was that choreography. The pelvic thrust with one hand in his pants pocket when he dances? Cringe.

And let’s not overlook the lyrics. Singing “He’s touching your body like I used to do”? Eeeeeeeewwwwwwww. What 19 year old thinks like that?

And we know this is superficial, but we couldn’t help but be distracted by just how hairy his arms are. Chris has got really hairy arms, and even he was uncomfortable by how hairy Benjamin Ingrosso’s arms are. Bigfoot would look at his arms and say, “Boy, that kid is hirsute.”

Still, good song. But, ugh, complicated.

Slovenia: Tim Kores – “Open Fire”

It’s hard to explain what camp is, but we know it when we see it. “Open Fire” is the EMA equivalent of Battlefield Earth: lots of lame visuals cribbed from more successful sources, and also bad contact lenses. When Kores “throws” a “ball of fire” to “set the drumkit on fire,” any ember of credibility is doused. We watch this one far more often than we really should. It is mesmerizing in its awfulness.

Belarus: Lermont x Julic – “Heartbeat

Is Lermont x Julic a mathematical equation? We were told there would be no math. But no problem, we got this. Here is a direct proof:

Axiom 1: Lermont x Julic = uncontrollable chortling.
Axiom 2: Lermont x Julic + back-up performers >~ Lermont x Julic.
Theorem: Lermont x Julic = 0.

Sweden: De Vet Du – “Road Trip

Epic and hilarious. De Vet Du are a comedy music group who have mastered the art of lacking self-awareness in a totally self-aware way. They also recognize that you consume the most fast food music when you’re in your car.

Estonia: Close to Infinity feat Ian Karell – “Sounds Like Home

Ever wondered why Beatles riffs haven’t been sampled by more hip hop acts? “Sounds Like Home” explains why.

Belarus: Nikita Hodas – “Voices In My Head

At first, Nikita comes off as Sam Smith covering “Time of Your Life” with a pitchy falsetto. He performs while holding a book to show that he feels the feels. Then he speak-sings his life story and it all gets unbearably twee. If Dear Evan Hansen ever makes it to Eastern Europe, we have found the perfect lead.

FinlandKnucklebone Oscar and the Shangri-la Rubies – “Caveman

Imagine if Jack Black was cast as Hyde in That ’70s Show. Imagine Jackie and Donna as stiff back-up singers. Imagine if there was a coherent song to accompany whatever this was supposed to be. When Oscar broke his guitar at the end, he was speaking for all of us.

Sweden: All the F-bombs

There was a lot of cussing at Melodifestivalen this year. Excuse me, Melodi-f’n-festivalen, to quote host Clara Hall. Between the first cut of “I Can’t Go On” to Lisa Ajax’s utterly embarrassing “I Don’t Give A,” Sweden went out of its way this year to make us reconsider watching Melodifestivalen with our eight-year-old.

Slovenia: EMA’s production value

This year’s EMA felt like a remedial A/V club project. The crowd noise was frequently piped in. The director kept using a strange medium shot that placed each singer in the lower half of the screen. (Hey director man, ever heard of the rule of thirds?) Then there was the lengthy filler content where the contestants talk about how much they like each other. They try, oh how they try.

Lithuania. Gytis “Lolita Zero” Ivanauskas – “Get Frighten”

At first glance, Lolita Zero looks like a busted queen. But when you look past the inflatable devil horns, you realize that she’s actually quite visionary. Who else has thought of combining Urban Cowboy with Gallagher’s Sledge-o-matic? No one, that’s who. What really caught our attention was the fact that Gytis rose to prominence with his lauded performance in Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Talk about putting the “rascal” in Raskolnikov!

National Final Season in Review 2017: Our Favorite Songs

The summer doldrums are in full swing. It’s the perfect time for us to go through our notes from the national final season, dust off those chestnuts that didn’t make it to the Eurovision Song Contest, and speculate about which of these artists will make it to the big show two or three years from now.

Finland: Lauri Yrjölä – “Helppo elämä

One part Måns Zelmerlöw, one part Aminata, all parts awesome. Bonus points to Lauri for keeping it in Finnish. Sexy, sexy Finnish. Fifty lashes with a wet noodle to Finland for giving him a paltry 8th place finish.

FinlandMy First Band – “Paradise

Do you like Maroon 5 but wished that Adam Levine dressed like Michael Jackson and took backdrop inspiration from a 1980s Vegas strip club? My First Band have got you covered. “Paradise” is a relentlessly upbeat and catchy bit of pop radio fodder (with slightly skeezy lyrics), but it’s so easy to sing along with, we don’t mind one bit. They finished 4th.

Estonia: Ariadne – “Feel Me Now

Ariadne is adorable, but she was a bit stiff as a performer. Ugh, who are we kidding, she was uncomfortably stiff. “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board” was invented so that one day we could use it to explain just how stiff she was up on that Eesti Laul stage. But man oh man, was her song fab. “Feel Me Now” is the type of song that makes an Eesti Laul fan out of an aspiring Eurovision diehard. She finished 6th overall, but with a world of promise.

Hungary: Adam Szabo – “Together

Adam Szabo has got a great voice and this was a good song with a good staging. But year after year, Szabo chokes on his live performance. This year’s A Dal semifinal performance was pitchy, and once again he struggled to connect on camera. We hope he’ll figure out how to present the whole package some day.

Hungary: Roma Soul – “Nyitva a ház

Oláh Gergő and company were perhaps a bit unfortunate to come up against Joci Pápai this year. That said, we enjoyed the energy of this Roma-inspired number. It does have the whiff of summer festivals, but it is still a lot of fun. Between losing Adam Szabo and Roma Soul, that second A Dal semifinal was a rough one for us.

Latvia: Lauris Valters – “Magic years”

This is a joyful song in the vein of “Kedvesem” and some of the recent great Maltese entries and Jen will accept no criticism of it. Sadly, Valters was eliminated in the Supernova semifinal.

Sweden: Mariette – “A Million Years

“A Million Years” takes Ira Losco’s “Walk On Water” and just does it better. In Sweden, however, improved Ira Losco is only good enough for a 4th place finish. The staging, which featured dancers on bungee cords and slo-mo camera tricks, was interesting and effective. Of course, if you’re reading this blog in the United States, you’re going to have to imagine all the cool staging because you’re stuck listening to the audio track. God, does international copyright and exclusive licensing need to be rethought in Eurovision’s internet age. (See also: the Eurovision Song Contest’s YouTube channel.)

Sweden: Jasmine Kara – “Gravity

Generally we trust the Swedes to get it right, but we have no idea why this Gaga-esque pop tune got left behind in the third heat of Melodifestivalen. Jasmine’s vocal may not be perfect and her energy may be a little unfocused, but “Gravity” was a fun song with some nifty visual effects.

Slovenia: Nuška Drašček – “Flower In the Snow”

You need to get to the 0:50 mark and don’t get too hung up on Nuška’s weird crow earrings or her initially wobbly vibrato. When it hits its stride, “Flower In the Snow” is a jazzy power ballad with sophisticated chording. And Nuška sells it within an inch of her life. She finished 4th overall, but the jury liked her, so that’s something.

Slovenia: Raiven – “Zažarim

“Zažarim” stood out to us not because the song is anything special, but because her staging was interesting. Raiven wore a custom-made body suit with mirror pieces on it, When the stage lights shone on her, Raiven became a disco ball. It evoked fond memories of Diahann Carroll in the Star Wars Christmas Special. Raiven finished 3rd.

Portugal: Celina da Piedade – “Primavera”

This sweet and gentle folk tune is the perfect song for a national final: Enjoyable in its element. You are secretly happy it doesn’t win because you want to keep it your little secret. Celina finished 3rd.