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” 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.

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.

The 2017 Eurovision That Almost Was: Semifinal Two

Looking back on what might have been at the second Semi and comparing it to what actually happened, it’s hard to say that things didn’t ultimately work out of the best for almost all parties involved. We include Russia’s absence in that assessment.

Serbia: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Russia: Yuliya Samoylova – “Flame Is Burning

A lot of ink has been spilled discussing the ultimate fate of Russia at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, so we’re not going to rehash it again. All we will say is we are not terribly cut up by the absence of “Flame Is Burning.” It’s the type of give-peace-a-chance song the Russian delegation defaults to when they make their mind up last minute. (See also: every song they’ve sent since 2013 that wasn’t sung by Sergey Lazarev.)

Austria: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Macedonia: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Malta: Janice Mangion – “Kewkba”

Malta came this close to doing something interesting at Eurovision this year. Janice Mangion finished second place with 4,544 votes, just 452 votes behind winner Claudia Faniello. “Kewkba” is a Disney-princess ballad and only marginally better than “Breathlessly” as a song, but it was sung in Maltese. In a year where Belarussian made its debut and a song sung in Portuguese won, that would have added to the allure of this year’s Song Contest.

Romania: MIHAI – “I Won’t Surrender

MIHAI delivered a 4th place Eurovision finish to Romania back in 2006 with “Tornerò” and has tried to make a return trip a few times since. Unfortunately, his meandering ballad was no match for the eventual winner. “Yodel It!” garnered nearly twice as many televotes as “I Won’t Surrender.”

Netherlands: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Hungary: Zävodi + Olivér Berkes – “#háttérzaj

As usual, Hungary did not reveal the final results of A Dal beyond the winner, but Zävodi and Olivér Berkes finished second in the jury vote. “#háttérzaj” is one of those forgettable blue-eyed soul numbers you hear at European jazz festivals and Eurovision national finals. Their performance was punctuated with a flaming piano, which at this point is stale. “#háttérzaj” lacked the gravitas that “Origo” brought to this year’s competition.

Denmark: Ida Una – “One”

Daenerys Targaryen hugs a light-up globe and sings about world peace. It’s a new look for her. A quick glance at the newspapers confirms that “One” did not save the world. One day a pop ballad may achieve that goal, but it seems that 2017 is just not our year. In the Dansk MGP super final, Ida managed only 26% of the televote; Anja Nissen won with 64%.

Ireland: Internal selection. Not applicable.

San Marino: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Croatia: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Norway: Ammunition – “Wrecking Crew”

Have you ever been to one of those 18-band heavy metal touring festivals, like OzzFest, and there is that one pop metal band that had a minor hit in 1988 kicking off their show at 11am on one of the side stages and you can’t help but feel a little sad because they are so far past their prime and also can’t hide how much they’ve let themselves go? Ammunition brought all of that to Norway’s MGP this year.

Switzerland: Nadya – “The Fire in the Sky

We knew Switzerland’s chances at Eurovision would be slim no matter who won, but we were team Nadya all the way this year. “The Fire in the Sky” bears an uncomfortable resemblance to “Rise Like a Phoenix,” but it was given a lift by a strong singer with an operatic background.

Belarus: Nuteki – “Take My Heart

Nuteki are staples at Belarus’ national finals, four attempts in and still trying. This year’s high concept staging–which featured lead singer Mikhail Nokarashvili in a prison cell surrounded by strobe lights and dry ice–made for a cluttered performance that was difficult on the eyes.

Bulgaria: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Lithuania: Aistė Pilvelytė – “I’m Like a Wolf

Casual Eurovision watchers probably watched Semifinal Two and wondered how a song like “Rain of Revolution” ended up representing Lithuania. Diehard Eurovision watchers knew that Lithuania wasn’t exactly flush with good options. Aistė Pilvelytė received only about 1,000 fewer televotes than Fusedmarc, but she fared poorly with the juries. Still, don’t worry about Aistė. She sang, “I keep my tears inside my soul” while reaching down for her crotch, so we think she’s got things in perspective.

Estonia: Kerli – “Spirit Animal

We are fans of Kerli. Her album Love Is Dead is terrific and “Army of Love” is a fab slice of electronic pop. Sadly, “Spirit Animal” was not a good choice when she finally tried for Eurovision. Kerli never completely delivered at Eesti Laul, and the dying giraffe noise puncturing the chorus was actively annoying. Strong jury support, perhaps a function of her celebrity, got her to the super final. The Estonian public had a different favorite. In the end, Kerli got only 30% of the super final televote, compared to Laura and Koit’s 55%.

Israel: Diana Golbi – Song internally selected.

In HaKokhav HaBa, the Israeli version of Rising Star that selected Israel’s Eurovision representative, voters selected the artist only. The Israeli delegation selected the song later. Second place finisher Diana Golbi was a former winner of Kokhav Nolad, the Israeli version of Pop Idol. The clip of “Purple Rain” we link to here highlights Diana’s smokey voice and steely stage presence. With the right song she could have done fine. In the end, Israel’s mobile phone voters decided to keep the Golden Boy era going one more year.

France: Internal Selection. Not applicable.

Germany: Levina – “Wildfire

Germany’s complex national final ultimately saw Levina competing against herself in the super final. The choice between “Perfect Life” and “Wildfire” was like a choice between raw carrots and cooked carrots, and Germany decided to eat their carrots raw. “Perfect Life” won with over 68% of the televote.

Ukraine: Tayanna – “I Love You

If we have learned anything about Eurovision over the years, it is that Ukraine will always refuse to be represented by songs called “I Love You.” Vasyl Lazarovich was meant to represent Ukraine in 2010 with “I Love You,” but after complaints that Ukraine internally selected Lazarovich, broadcaster NTU had a do-over national final in which “I Love You” finished 7th. Tayanna’s “I Love You” fared a bit better: it won the jury vote, but it only finished third in the televote. Tayanna was tied on points with O.Torvald, but the tiebreak went to the song that did better with the public. We’d like to think that if “I Love You” had won, Ukraine would have kept the giant head.