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!

National Final Season in Review 2018: Our Favorite Songs

When we looked back at our notes from the national final season, we heard Tim Gunn’s voice echoing through our brains: “It’s all a matter of taste.” There are a couple of songs on our list that were, shall we say, less than beloved by other Eurovision diehards. Maybe these choices will reflect poorly on us, but we don’t care because they brought us joy. That is all we can ever ask for out of pop music.

France: Nassi – “Rêves de gamin

Destination Eurovision, France’s national final competition, was the best national final of them all in 2018. Even the songs that were clunkers were better than other countries’ Eurovision entries. We could have picked most of the songs for our list.

We were familiar with Nassi before the competition from his single “La vie est belle.” If anything, “Rêves de gamin” suffered a bit from hewing  too close to the “La vie est belle” template. (Well, that and Nassi lacked confidence when performing.) We loved it anyway.

France: Malo’ – “Ciao

“Ciao” is a stomping indie anthem that was perhaps a bit too out there for a general audience. But Malo’ is a unique artist with a gentle and distinct voice that drew us in.

Hungary: Yesyes – “I Let You Run Away

In our Eurovision That Almost Was post, we focused on the song that scored the most points with the judging panel because A Dal usually doesn’t reveal the second place winner. We later saw on the ESC Hungary website that Yesyes had actually captured second place with 29% of the public vote (versus AWS’ 32%). So let’s revise our revisionist history. We’re usually fans of Ádám Szabó’s A Dal output and “I Let You Run Away” was his strongest effort to date. Of course, we’re biased towards accordion solos.

Hungary: Viktor Király – “Budapest Girl”

Yes, it is shamelessly commercial. Yes, it is relentlessly cheesy. Yes, the lyrics make us cringe. But we do not care. “Budapest Girl” made us stupidly happy.

Sweden: Samir & Viktor – “Shuffla

Samir & Viktor’s brand of bro-schlager has become a Melodifestivalen staple and it has never been better than with “Shuffla.” From its silly sepia-tinged intro to its strategic use of an epic sax guy, “Shuffla” is an almost perfect Eurotrash dance anthem.

Estonia: Indrek Ventmann – “Tempel

“Tempel” is the type of Eesti Laul entry that turns casual national final viewers into diehard Eesti-fans. (Laulheads?) The staging sees Indrek  maintaining his peace while suffering through all the trappings of modern life, such as cell phone calls and strangers randomly scissoring up your t-shirt. The song goes on a bit at the end, but we forgive it because the whole package is fabulous.

Ukraine: Laud – “Waiting

There is something appealingly askew about “Waiting.” It has a slithering groove that sidles up on you, but the arrangement and the backing vocals are slightly off-kilter. It made us pay attention.

Ukraine: Pur:Pur – “Fire

Pur:Pur has a knack for moody, ethereal orchestrations and singer Nata Smirina has a striking fashion sense. They made it to the final of Ukraine’s national selection in 2016 with “We Do Change,” which we thought didn’t stand up to the band’s theatrical style. We liked “Fire” a lot more, yet it died in the semifinals. Go figure.

Portugal: JP Simões – “Alvoroço

There is a fine line between awesome and WTF and JP Simões doesn’t care if he veers all over it as he struts along. “Alvoroço” kicks off with unsettling blasts of strings before settling into a cool little 1970s-tinged samba. JP’s rich baritone guides us along and, when we get unsettled by a sudden, brass-driven manic breakdown, he calms us down as he brings us home. It’s like a first visit to a big city condensed into a three-minute song.

Norway: Ida Maria – “Scandilove”

If we are being honest, “Scandilove” is utterly ridiculous. The too-cheeky-by-half lyrics wink so hard Ida Maria could have strained her eyelids. But “Scandilove” is catchier than the nasty cold that befell Ida at MGP. It’s so much fun and we only wish that she had been physically strong enough to carry it to its full potential.

The 2018 Eurovision That Almost Was: Semifinal Two

Let’s take a look back at Semifinal Two and the three Big 6 countries that voted in it and picture a show without robots, neon stage props, quirky graphics, Norsemen and heavy f-in’ metal.

Russia: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Serbia: Saška Janks – “Pesma za tebe

“Pesma za tebe” is not the most ground-breaking ballad you will ever hear, but it takes the best parts of Irish folk, Balkan-style Eurovision staging, and “Unsubstantial Blues” to create an enjoyable little ballad.

Denmark: Anna Ritsmar – “Starlight

Anna Ritsmar is an adorable 17-year-old former X Factor contestant with an adorably twee Radio Disney-friendly pop song. But sadly she is not a goddamned Viking.

Romania: Alexia & Matei – “Walking on Water

“Walking on Water” sounds like Eye Cue’s “Lost and Found” if Eye Cue had settled on one song instead of several.

Australia: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Norway: Rebecca – “Who We Are

We admit that we were Team Rebecca all the way (at least once Ida Maria was knocked out of contention). We knew Alexander Rybak was going to win, but rooting for him is like rooting for Barcelona in a Copa del Ray final.

Moldova: Vera Țurcanu – “Black Heart”

If 1990s-era made-for-pay-channel erotic thrillers starring Nick Cassavettes and Shannon Whirry were still a thing, Vera Țurcanu would have the perfect theme song for one.

San Marino: Sara de Blue – “Out of the Twilight

We’re kind of disappointed Sara de Blue did not get the nod for San Marino. She could have taken inspiration from DJ Bobo and “Hope Never Dies” and gothed the hell out of her staging. It could have been awesome.

Netherlands: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Montenegro: Katarina Bogićević – “Neželjena

Katarina’s postcard for Montevizija shows her playing beer pong. As with eventual Montenegrin representative Vanja Radovanović, Katarina seems more fun than her song would indicate.

Sweden: Felix Sandman – “Every Single Day”

Felix finished runner up to Benjamin Ingrosso in both the jury and the public votes. He was good but he wasn’t given the Melodifestivalen staging that Benjamin got. We figure Felix’ result in 2018 will set him up nicely for the producer’s bump in 2019. (We’re not saying that this is what’s going on at Melodifestivalen, but we’re not not saying that this is what’s going on at Melodifestivalen.)

Hungary: Gergely Dánielfy – “Azt mondtad

As usual, A Dal did not reveal the runner up totals, but the top vote-getter from the judging panel was “Azt mondtad.” We can see why: Dánielfy brought a lot of smoldering intensity to his performance.

Malta: Richard & Joe Micallef – “Song for Dad

Richard Edwards Micallef of Firelight’s “Coming Home” fame and his dad Joe Micallef sing a song Richard and Cyprian Cassar wrote for Joe. That is both a factual statement and a review of the song.

Latvia: Sudden Lights – “Just Fine

“Just Fine” is an interesting, atmospheric song that meanders full circle without ever going anywhere. It’s, you know…

Georgia: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Poland: Happy Prince – “Don’t Let Go

“Don’t Let Go” was the jury favorite at Krajowe Eliminacje 2018, but it didn’t capture the public’s imagination. We’re with the public on this one.

Slovenia: BQL – “Promise”

BQL returned to EMA with another Maraaya joint, this time sporting lyrics by Charlie Mason. They dominated the public vote, but got royally hosed by the jury. We won’t complain too much because we love “Hvala, ne!” Still, we hope BQL, Marjetka, Raay, and Charlie all want to work together again next year.

Ukraine: Tayanna – “Lelya

There is a fine line between good energy and manic energy and Tayanna has no idea that line exists.

France: Lisandro Cuxi – “Eva

Lisandro won France’s version of X Factor and he is an absolute star. We liked “Mercy” more than “Eva,” but we would not have been surprised if he had won Destination Eurovision. We expect him to be France’s Eurovision representative sooner rather than later.

Italy: Lo Stato Sociale – “Una vita in vacanza

Imagine a drunk Josh Widdicombe singing karaoke at a bar in Rome.

Germany: Xavier Darcy – “Jonah

What can we say about Xavier Darcy? He’s a pretty good singer and “Jonah” is a pretty good song. But his performance style is a bit affected. We were annoyed with him at first, but once we settled into his rhythm, we were along for the ride.

The 2018 Eurovision That Almost Was: Semifinal One

It’s always fun to look back at the national final season and imagine how things could have been different in Lisbon. Then again, in the case of Semifinal One, things wouldn’t have been that different: 9 of the 19 countries involved went with an internal selection.

We’re also including the three Big 6 countries that voted in Semifinal One so that we can once again whinge about the BBC.

Belarus: Gunesh – “I Won’t Cry

Are you a movie producer from the 1980s looking for a perky pop song to use in a montage scene in your romcom about mistaken identities? Jump in your time machine and set a course for Minsk! Gunesh performed wearing a trench coat dress that we hoped would lead to a spectacular costume change. Our hopes were dashed by the last high note she almost landed.

Bulgaria: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Lithuania: Jurgis Brūzga – “4love

There was something weirdly hokey about the staging of Jurgis Brūzga’s “4Love.” Apparently, he and his team decided to stage their mid-’00s dance jam like a number from a flop musical. It’s a little bit too smiley and a little bit too manic to work. Or maybe we’re just disappointed that this wasn’t the return of 4Fun.

Albania: Redon Makashi – “Ekziston

“Ekziston” is a lovely little ballad, but Redon’s performance lacked the fireworks Eugent Bushpepa brought to “Mall.”

Czech Republic: Debbi – “High on Love

“High On Love” reminds us a bit of “Stones,” Zibbz’ song for Switzerland. It’s a decent pop banger that takes a generic Eurovision thematic trope and gives it some zing. Ultimately, though, there’s no doubt Czech Republic made the right choice.

Belgium: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Iceland: Dagur Sigurðsson – “Í stormi”

The story of this year’s Söngvakeppnin boiled down to this: two singers selling two staid ballads that were well below their talent. We would have preferred “Í stormi” over “Our Choice,” though, because it sounds like it came from this millennium.

Azerbaijan: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Israel: Jonathan Mergui – Song internally selected.

Jonathan Mergui was the runner up to Netta on Rising Star, which was used to select Israel’s Eurovision performer. He probably would have been a solid representative of his country. And we probably would have been heading to Nicosia in 2019.

Estonia: Stig Rästa – “Home

We are not as big fans of Stig as a lot of other Eurovision diehards seem to be, but we thought “Home” was Stig’s best contribution to Eesti Laul to date.

Switzerland: Alejandro Reyes – “Compass

“Compass” is a low-key pop number in the Puth-Mendes realm. We  preferred it to “Stones,” although we wouldn’t have expected it to go over much better in Lisbon.

Finland: Saara Aalto – “Domino

“Monsters” is a lead single off an album. “Domino” is the fifth single off that album, the one that comes out while the artist is already back in the studio working their follow-up.

Austria: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Ireland: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Armenia: Nemra – “I’m a Liar”

The Stig Rästa of Armenia performs a fluffly little retro ballad with a couple bits of non-gimmick gimmickry, including a random traditional folk bit at the end. It is goofy fun.

Cyprus: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Croatia: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Greece: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Macedonia: Internal selection. Not applicable.

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

One of the more annoying things about BBC is that they never release the voting tallies for You Decide. We expect SuRie ran away with the competition, but we would have loved to seen how Asanda and Jaz Ellington finished.

Spain: Aitana – “Arde

“Arde” is a smoldering ballad and while Aitana sings it well, it lacked the spark that Amaia & Alfred brought to “Tu canción.”

Portugal: Catarina Miranda – “Para Sorrir Eu Não Preciso de Nada

“Para Sorrir Eu Não Preciso de Nada” reminds us of 1970s-era AM radio. It’s okay, but Catarina seemed to really struggle with it.  We can’t argue that Portugal made the wrong choice, their ultimate fate in May notwithstanding.

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.