The Thank You Europe National Finals Awards

So another national final season draws to a close and the best part of Eurovision 2014 is over. I’m going to have to find something to do on my Saturdays other than tweeting about Estonian claymation pig spanking and booking a holiday through ROCS travel. Too ease the transition, I’ve been reminiscing on the highlights of the last three months and asking which is better? So here are the inaugural Thank You Europe National Finals Awards. Through a combination of an expert panel (me) and the occasional poll, I’m selecting the cream of the national final crop. I’m not interested in best song or best vocalist or stuff like that, though. These awards are for the stuff we really care about.

Best Advert

Four of our nominees

Traditionally a strong category for Malta, this one. ROCS Travel vs Mediterranean Bank is the Real-Barcelona of the Eurovision advert world. However, this is perhaps more through repetition than actual advert quality. In my opinion, Mediterranean Bank’s smug “20 year-old me” ad is comprehensively outclassed by the sheep bankers in Moldova. Meanwhile, Albania has a furniture retailer who hasn’t noticed the shape you make when you combine the maps of Albania, Kosovo and FYR Macedonia. Belarus has a parrot in a fridge. I don’t know why; it just does. Malta has some competition. I’m not going to pick the winner in this one. Democracy can decide.

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Most Androgynous

Winner!

Winner!

There have been a fair few dudes that look like ladies in this national final season. Obviously, there’s Conchita for starters. I’ve never been a fan of her myself. She’s like a Kenny Everett comedy character, but not played for laughs. Anyway, androgyny is more about subtlety. If you wear a dress you’ve gone beyond androgynous. Yohio put in a solid effort again this year. However, I think he was somewhat undermined by singing one of Ulrik Munter’s cast-offs. There’s also Glamboy P who matched his unique monk-fringe mullet with dancing straight out of Pineapple Dance Studios. However, I’m giving the award to my favourite moment in the Ukrainian final, where my twitter feed was suddenly filled with viewers excited to see a lesbian taking part. Then we found out he was called Eugene. No one trusted the Ukrainian set lists, though. We couldn’t be sure whether there’d been a mistake in the romanisation of his name. Even the broken English voiceover lady called him a she at one point. It was a proper mystery. You don’t get that sort of uncertainty these days.

Best Use of a Mode of Transportation as an Onstage Prop

A few contenders in this one. Madcraft had BMX riders on stage at the UMK final and Sandra Nurmsalu had a raft which rather awkwardly lifted he to the ceiling in Eesti Laul. Special mention has to go to the scruffy old guy in the convertible car in Armenia’s New Year’s Eve song reveal. However this category is a landslide victory for Santiano. They had a boat! A massive boat! It was huge!

BOAT!!!

Best Entrance

"Baby! Beautiful Baby!"

“Baby! Beautiful Baby!”

Alcazar came in in a giant flying disco ball.  Aram MP3 came went one better and had a disco Christmas tree. However, the best entrance has to go to Switter Boys. It was already quite an odd entry, even by Belarus’s standards, with a pair of hoodied Chuckle Brothers performing a repetitive dance song alongside some awkwardly tall twins singing about “Armani Prada Gucci”, but then the music suddenly stops. No one expected the big man in the white suit. Coming out from behind the screens to sing his heart out, he switched the song from odd to hilarious. Nothing topped that all season. 12 points.

Craziest Judge

NF judge corners

One of the weekly joys of Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu (other than trying to spell it) was finding out what the judges were going to wear next. I almost put a tenner on Pocahontas headdress before the final and ended up kicking myself afterwards. Between them Aija Puurtinen and Toni Wirtanen must keep the Finnish hat industry in rude health. Meanwhile, the highlight of Belgium’s weak national final was discovering what a nutter Ruslana is. I know there must be a language issue there, but she was also crazy in the eyes. She loved everything, to the point of singing “I Will Always Love You” at a distinctly nonplussed contestant. In Ireland, meanwhile, Linda Martin was not quite feeling the love. For turning Ireland’s Eurosong into The Late Late Jeremy Kyle Show, Linda has to be the favourite, but I’ll let the public decide.

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Best Use of Emmelie De Forest

“Hello [insert country name here]. A couple of years ago I was living in a small town in Denmark and did not even dare to dream about winning the Eurovision Song Contest. But I did.”

And she’s not shut up about it since, has she? Emmelie has been everywhere this year and has been sending annoying videos when she can’t get there in person. I’d say her performances in Malta and Denmark (the drummers had fire sticks!), but she was put to best use by Aram MP3 in Armenia. Take the piss out of her then sing her song better than she would in person.

Best Clown Medley

Screw the actual songs in Eesti Laul. The best three minutes came from the clowns. I’ve watched the videos more times than is healthy now. It’s not just because of my weird crush on the girl clown. They’re well put together. The first one, that focuses on Eesti Laul songs is clearly the best. Eurovision winning songs don’t work quite as well in clown form. I’m not quite sure what that says about the contest.

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Best name

A name can be a powerful thing. I first fell in love with Trackshittaz through finding their name on a list of Austrian entrants and googling them. Look where it got them. It didn’t get Swissters quite as far in Switzerland this year. Hungary performed quite well this year. I was going to give Bogi a nomination until I remembered they also had Group’N’Swing. It sounds like some sort of sex party exercise apparatus. Belgium also brought us the world’s worst-named boyband in the form of Bandits. All I want to do is put the word “arse” in front of it. Slovenia also had a band called MUFF. They put it in capital letters in case it didn’t stand out enough. I love Eurovision.

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Best Incest

Last award now. On behalf of all the winners, I’d like to thank their God. I’d like to thank their agents and managers and national finals organisers and ROCS Travel. But most of all, I need to thank their mothers: passionately, violently, with every ounce of my being. MOTHER!!!! There’s something very wrong about the Belgian entry. Maria Yaremchuk with her brother/sister relationship is a mere amateur. She doesn’t have the depth of emotion for her family that Axel does. Will Maria die for her incestuous love? I think not. Axel deserves this award more than anyone. I’m sure his mother will be very proud.

Posted in Albania, Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Copenhagen 2014, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Malta, National finals, Slovenia, Ukraine | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Not Quite a National Final Review: New Year in Armenia

champagne

Sydney does it with a spectacular firework display, London does it with the bongs of Big Ben, New York does it with a ball dropping in Times Square. Yerevan does it with a scruffy old man with a mullet singing in a red convertible car. Welcome to New Year’s on Armenian tv.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=521402277967243&set=a.521402134633924.1073741841.273072886133518&type=3&theater

Where da party at?

I was only watching because we’d been promised the reveal of Armenia’s Eurovision entrant during the show, but by five minutes past midnight that had gone out of the window. I was sticking with 1tv through the night. Back in 2013, I had been sitting through a fairly staid, boring music show. Frankly, this is what I closed-mindedly expected from Armenian TV. As long speeches from the head of the orthodox church and the president of Armenia ushered in the new year, I was ready to get my entrant and go. I was not expecting the pimp daddy and his laydeez to come out. Remaining resolutely stationary in his car as the world whizzed by, he and his bevy of excitable beauties started up the maddest of New Year’s parties. I don’t think that was snow on the trees.

Whoa... trippy.

Whoa… trippy.

Just in case anyone was left under the impression that this show would revert to something resembling normality, the performance was followed up by a gaudy disco number, replete with dancing disco balls. The performance wasn’t at all bad, but the colours! I was just transfixed by the pretty pictures. And mesmerised by the prospect of one of these acts being our Eurovision entry.

happy new year

Happy New Year

It wasn’t just the viewers having fun, though; oh no. Between, and sometimes during, songs the cameras would cut to various Armenian celebrities in the audience who were having the time of their lives. This despite the fact that they never seemed to be shown drinking their champagne. The glasses were only there for clinking. Very loudly. I’m not entirely convinced that it’s possible to clink champagne glasses over the noise of a pop concert going on a few rows in front, but the Armenian sound producers made it happen.

I've checked. That's really Eva.

I’ve checked. That’s really Eva.

Two side games were being played as I was watching the New Year spectacular. One was to listen out over the champagne clinking for any mention of Eurovision, Europe, Te Deum or anything to do with Copenhagen. I had to occasionally remind myself that’s why I was originally watching. The other was to stare at the screen and say “Is that Eva Rivas?” It was hard to tell under all that makeup whether it was really her singing “Strong Enough” by Cher. I don’t understand how her lips became so big. Maybe she’s allergic to apricots.

Inga or Anush

I’m going to say that’s Inga. Or it could be Anush.

Similarly, I was joking when I called the buxom divas strutting across the stage and grinding with their dancers Inga and Anush. The closer I looked though, the less funny the joke seemed and the more funny the reimagining of Inga and Anush as Armenia’s answer to The Weathergirls became. Gone were the traditional bejewelled robes and in their place came lurid plasticky fifties dresses. It was wipeclean vintage. This show is amazing.

Nice swing, Lilit.

Nice swing, Lilit.

 

There was one Eurovision alumnus everyone knew for sure was going to be there. The annual Sirusho rumour machine went into overload as news spread of her rehearsals for this programme. Alas, her appearance came and went with no mention of Copenhagen. Like all the performances, it was playback, but she put on a good show. It was quite reminiscent of Kylie; very slick and professional. She didn’t really fit in. There were other slick performances to be fair. There was this one girl who did a nice retro sixties number and a nice performance from a girl I’ve since identified as Lilit Hovhannisyan. Lilit judged the occasion better, though; entering by being lowered from the ceiling wearing head-to-toe leopard print.

old guy fantasy

Armenia’s answer to Pele

old guy fantasy dance

Still got it

The one thing that was missing from the show up to this point was a viagra commercial. Luckily, Armenia knows what its public wants. Sitting alone at his table, this poor old man watches the lady on stage and he dreams. He dreams of his youth when he could have any woman he wants. He seems to want big women. That, or Eva Rivas would have been too much for his ticker to handle.

New Year’s Eve is a magical time in Armenia, where dreams come true. Our elderly observer will have this dance. Suddenly the entire studio is cleared. There’s no party going on, no clinking of glasses; just him, her and the music. We then go back to him at his table, watching the song alone. The whole sequence has been a dream. Maybe this whole new year’s eve show was a dream. Did I dream it. I was too ill to go out last night; maybe I was iller than I thought.

Armenia 2014 - Aram MP3

Armenia 2014 – Aram MP3

Any existential musings were cut short by a sudden burst of Te Deum. 2014′s Armenian entrant was next. And what an entrance. Aram MP3 is probably the first Eurovision entrant who has been introduced to me by way of revolving disco Christmas tree. On emerging he launched into an energetic cover of Jealousy by Martin Solveig (video below). I was really impressed. Obviously, the song wasn’t his and the singing wasn’t live, but Aram has a great stage presence. He is very watchable and given a good uptempo song in Copenhagen, he could do well.

I sincerely wish him and Armenia all the best and a happy new year. They know how to put on a party. I wish Jools Holland could be this good.

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A Mo for Europe

euro mo logo2

It’s Movember and men all over the world are doing one of the manliest things possible to raise money for charity. For me, it means a month of jealously admiring other men’s moustaches. I have grown beards before, but the moustache has always been by far the weakest part of my hairy arsenal. In my heart, I know that thirty days isn’t enough for me to do it justice. To celebrate instead, here is my list of Eurovision’s most glorious moustaches.

Domenico ModugnoDomenico Modugno Moustache Eurovision 1959

Barring the discovery of a lost moustache from the 1956 contest, Domenico is the first ever owner of a moustache in Eurovision. I’m sure it’s the record he was most proud of. But, while he broke down barriers in the 1958 contest, as he sang some song called Volare, 1959 sees Domenico’s moustache at its finest. A classic pencil style, neatly trimmed, with admirable definition.

Agathonas moustache eurovision 2013

Agathonas Iakovidis

2013 was a good moustache year. Marco Mengoni evoked the spirit of Modugno and Gor Sujyan brought a strong D’Artagnan goatee to the stage, but Agathonas stood tall  above the young pretenders. Worshipped by his designer-stubbled bandmates, he set new standards for tache choreography. Like a Greek Des Lynam, Agathonas relishes the brute masculinity of his moustache. He knows how to use it.

Stephane & 3G Eurovision 2009Stephane

A moustache is a versatile thing. In some hands it can be sexy, others playful, or in the hands of Stephane from Georgia’s Stephane & 3G it can be a political weapon so powerful it can draw the attention of the most powerful men in the world. With his 2009 disco stomper, We Don’t Wanna Put In, Stephane ignited a storm of protest from Russia that saw him cruelly censored from the contest. His bushy Groucho Marx style may have been banned, but he will not be forgotten.

Prima Donna Eurovision moustache

Prima Donna (Backing singer)

A strong example of the “gay as shit” variety, this one. I’ve always found UK’s 1980 entry, Love Enough For Two, deeply hilarious. The backing singer on the right adds to the oddness of us sending the world’s tweeest love song with an unintentional subtext of threesomes. He’s got love enough for two alright: 1) For the girl next to him and 2) For his secret friend Larry out back.

Guy Tell Eurovision interval 1989

Guy Tell

This moustache spells danger. 1989′s dead-eye interval act, Guy Tell, drew strength from his tache. If you’re going to use your trusty crossbow to shoot an apple off your own head, you need the sort of self confidence you can only get from looking super sharp with an 80s mullet and moustache. Especially if your aim is as dodgy as Guy’s.

Eurovision Malta 1991Paul Giordimaina

Time taking its toll on your body? Going grey? No matter. Grow a beautiful black moustache and you’ll return to being the sex machine you always were on the inside. Paul Giordimaina did just that and it got him a spot representing Malta in the 1991 contest alongside the beautiful Georgina, who could never resist his charm.

Bill Van Dijk Eurovision 1982Bill Van Dijk

This highlights the moustache’s powers for the promotion healthy of living. Bill’s charming Ned Flanders look gave him the impetus for one of Eurovision’s more energetic onstage performances. It was musical calisthenics, with the groin stretches near the end particularly impressive. One feels that, without the moustache, the whole performance could have come across as silly.

Love city groove eurovisionLove City Groove

In 1995, The UK brought Eurovision right up to date with the first hip hop moustache. This is just so street. Paul Hardy from Love City Groove could wear this snazzy little number down the streets of Compton and blend right in. Rap has had a bad time of it in Eurovision, scorewise, but this managed to achieve a credible tenth place. Maybe more ESC hip hop artistes should style themselves like this. To quote the Groove “Cos Honey… yeah.”

Tommy Seebach eurovision 1979Tommy Seebach

This is disco. Izhar Cohen may have stolen the title of Eurovision’s first disco winner, but Tommy Seebach mastered the style. 1979 saw this cheeky moustache at the peak of its powers. Tommy even matched his wardrobe to it, such was the appeal of his top lip. Sadly, Milk and Honey took the crown that year. Tommy would return, but as the 70s ended and disco gave way to new wave, Tommy’s facial hair would never hit the same heights again.

Alan Sorrenti Eurovision Italy 1980Alan Sorrenti

Men want to be him, women want to be near him. There’s a sleazy porn-starrish allure to Italy’s entry from 1980. Flanked by hungry-eyed ladies wielding guitars that they aren’t really concentrating on, Sorrenti belts out a powerful falsetto that puts the audience weak at the knees. With his loose-fitting canary blue suit, his luxurious hair and most of all that moustache, the performance oozes sex. He more than makes up for being called Alan.

Dschinghis KhanDschinghis Khan

“Hoo! Haa! Hoo! Haa! Hoo!!!” The elemental manliness of Germany 1979 cannot be underestimated. Bare-chested and hairy-faced. Dschinghis Khan were a dominant force to be reckoned with. Some might question the taste in a song glorifying a murderous 13th century tyrant, but those sideburns make it worth it.

Peter Nalitch & FriendsPeter Nalitch & Friends

Some dislike Russia’s 2010 entry, but these critics fail to comprehend its powerful allegorical storytelling through facial hair. Peter, centre, is struggling to come to terms with his relationship breakdown, his inner turmoil reflected by his fluffy and unremarkable tache. His pal Sergei tries to shake him out of it, urging Peter to throw his hand drawn photos into the fire. This emotional stability is reflected in Sergei’s stronger moustache, but his immature response still echoes. Really, they all want to be more like the bass player. It’s quite beautiful.

So there you have it: Thank You Europe’s official list of great Eurovision moustaches. I hope you’ve learnt something. Having had all this fun with other people’s moustaches, it would perhaps be churlish not to share my one previous attempt at a mo (grown over a much longer term than a month). My moustachioed European brothers, I salute you.

tye moustache

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Seeing Through Transparency

2014 eurovision rules

Good news everyone! That lovely EBU have changed the Eurovision rules and given us a whole load of much-needed transparency. We all want transparency. Can’t get enough of it. From now on, we’ll know the exact number of marks each juror gives to each country in each semi and each final of Eurovision. The hope is that this will make it harder for people to influence the decisions of jurors. 

I’m not so sure of that. Will voting publicly really make juror’s more objective?

Say you’re an Azerbaijani juror sitting down to vote on Copenhagen 2014. Your tyrannical and repressive government has openly criticised last year’s votes for not awarding anything to Russia. You know they have a track record of arresting televoters who voted the wrong way. They also control the media and have the power to ruin your career in music. They can now see your individual votes. Who do you give big marks to?

corruptionMy feeling is that the new rules will do little more than provide a way for the fixers to keep tabs on their investment. Azerbaijan’s puzzlement at where their votes for Russia went in 2013 gives me the impression that someone in the jury didn’t vote how they were told. That won’t be happening next year.

I don’t see how the rules will aid people in catching cheats either. I’m sure everyone will try to spot them. In the weeks after the contest in May, there’ll be plenty of fans going through the jury scores with a fine tooth comb, me included. However, these investigations will be little more than guesswork. You can’t prove that a judge didn’t like a song as much they claim; not through their votes alone. Judges will always have the defence of coincidence and personal taste.

The main thing we’ll be looking for is where individual jurors vote identically to each other. I don’t think vote-riggers are that stupid, though. If you’re going to the trouble of rigging an entire jury’s votes, the new rules only require a little bit of extra planning to cover your tracks. Instruct two of your jurors to give your chosen winner top marks, another couple to put your favourite second and the other juror can put it sixth or something. As long as you then arrange for the jury to spread out their other top marks, you’ve got yourself a jury win without drawing suspicion.

We knew all about Mika Newton's phone votes in 2011.

We knew all about Mika Newton’s phone vote shenanigans in 2011.

I don’t mean to come across as soft on cheating. I just think there are other ways of ensuring a fair vote. For a start, you can introduce transparency into the phone votes, where it’s much more useful. Give us the percentages. Maybe you could break them down by SMS and phone votes or show the number of votes per voter (like how in the 2011 Ukrainian NF we knew Mika Newton’s voters averaged 14 votes each).

There are better ways of improving the integrity of the jurors. The EBU could pick the jurors themselves, instead of trusting the job to the broadcasters. It would certainly be much harder for delegations to swap votes with each other if they don’t have their own hand-picked experts doing the voting. Increasing the number of jurors could also help. It would then cost more to buy an entire jury off and (if individual votes were kept secret) it would be harder to pin down individual jurors for not voting as they’re told.

The EBU’s changes to the rules seem to me more motivated by PR than anything else. They are designed to show that the EBU themselves aren’t hiding anything, while doing little to actually combat potential corruption. If anything, they could make the problem worse.

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Azerbaijani vote fraud

Azerbaijan money flagLukas is standing on the street outside a bar. It’s a miserable night. Misty rain cloaks the city centre. If it wasn’t for this cigarette he’d be inside in the warm. He sees two men approach from across the road. Stocky, dressed in matching leather jackets with hair cut short in nondescript crew cuts, they look like bouncers, except meaner. Stern and businesslike, they don’t look in search of a good night out.

“Hey buddy, yes you. You want to make some money?”

Not sure what to say, Lukas manages a “Hmm?” as they approach nearer.

“Yes, easy money, you like it, yes?”

“I guess” he replies, wishing they’d go away, or at least not stand so close. He ends up backing against a wall. The man who is talking to Lukas looks a good ten years older than his companion. He has dark leathery skin; the sort that makes Lukas want to quit smoking.

“You like Eurovision? Of course you do.” Lukas doesn’t really like Eurovision but he daren’t say anything to that effect. What’s going on? Is this a gay thing? “They hold it in Sweden this year, Malmö,” the man continues, “I don’t know why they don’t pick big arenas in Stockholm. Make big show, right? I don’t understand. If stadium taken for football, build new one.” This seems to raise a smirk in his friend, but he then quickly returns to staring intently at Lukas’s face.

“Here,” the man reaches inside his jacket. Lukas’s heart skips a beat, but no weapon emerges from the old guy’s pocket. Instead it’s a picture. “This is Farid Mammadov. He very sexy boy, no? Farid does Capoeira. He kick very high.” His friend threatens to demonstrate, but is cut off when the old guy barks at him in some impenetrable language.

Vote Farid.

Vote Farid.

“Farid sings for Azerbaijan this year. We need you to help us vote for him. He sing very well. We don’t want him to get lost between Iceland and bastards from Greece, right? Look,” he reaches into his pocket again and emerges with another picture, “You like man in box?”

“Uh, yeah, I guess,” Lukas replies perplexedly.

The other guy mumbles something in his own language. “My partner here says box represents Farid’s inner self which can only break free and prosper if given love of good woman. It is beautiful, is it not? Perspex, I think.”

Lukas finds himself agreeing about the box and about the voting. Before he knows it they’ve exchanged phone numbers and the men disappear into the mist. This will be the weirdest thing Lukas has ever done for money. And he’s done porn.

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I can’t help but find something deeply comical about Azerbaijan’s antics. Eurovision is, at heart, a fun Saturday night entertainment show, albeit the best fun Saturday night entertainment show in the world. It seems ridiculous that any country would take it so seriously as to arrest its citizens for voting the wrong way, forcibly evict residents of its capital to make way for its hosting and pay thousands of American dollars to rig the phone vote in its favour. It seems Azerbaijan have done all three.

Ell_&_Nikki_-_Azerbaijan_(Eurovision_Song_Contest_2011)_cropped

A lot of people voted for them in 2011.

Perhaps the ridiculousness is part of how they get away with it. It’s easy for the EBU to become complacent about the potential for fraud in Eurovision. To be successful, a country would have to commit to vote-buying on a massive international scale. Who would bother? Now the complacency has to come to an end. The rumours that have attached themselves to Azerbaijan now have solid evidence to back them up. Some big action has to be taken.

There needs to be greater transparency in the voting. If one country gets an unbelievably massive share of a phone vote, it should be visible. There ought also to be a review into how jury members are selected and how to combat the potential to influence their votes.

Most importantly, some sanctions have to be implemented against Azerbaijan. They can’t be allowed to get away with a cursory slap on the wrist. A fine isn’t enough. A ban on participation, or a ban on hosting if they won, would be the only worthwhile punishments. It’s not just for the sake of justice and the integrity of the competition, it’s in the EBU’s own interest too. If left to their own devices, Azerbaijan will win again and, this time, everyone will know how they did it. It won’t make for an edifying spectacle when the winner takes their prize to a chorus of booing from the crowd.

Posted in Azerbaijan, Malmö 2013 | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

An Apology

South Park BP SorryI make a lot of pronouncements about Eurovision on here, on twitter and just about anywhere I think people will listen. I must be really annoying to my friends. With all the snap judgements I make on ESC, I am not always right. For that I am sorry.

Sorry.

Sorry.

For the last three months I’d been ranking Iceland as a complete non-contender. It was just really really dull. I found nothing special about it at all. Then in the second semi final I saw the error of my ways. Maybe it was because I could now compare him to the trite Russian and Cypriot entries, maybe it was the pretty picture of a fishing village, or maybe it was his luxuriant blond locks, but finally I got it. Best old-school ballad on show, I’d say. I love the folky tinge. I should have been backing this song earlier. I’m sorry Eyþór. I’m also sorry that I’ve yet to figure out how to say your name.

I had been quite mean to Azerbaijan too. I’ve never really liked an Azeri entry before, so maybe I came to my first listen of Hold Me with a closed mind. There was also the horrible “Fold me” lyric; I’m not apologising for pointing out that monstrosity. However, it proved to be a very nice entry when it came to Malmo. The staging was so good, the words didn’t matter. And Farid performed the song with a sincerity that has been missing in so many of his compatriots. I may not think it was quite worthy of second place, but Farid’s song turned out to be Azerbaijan’s best yet. I underrated you. I’m sorry Farid.

Sorry.

Sorry.

In February I was watching Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu and I was firmly behind Great Wide North to win. They were like a mix of Mumford and Sons and Fun. In the end, I was disappointed and tweeted “Darn, the gimmicky one won in Finland”. I’ve long since seen the error of my ways. Krista was one of the most fun entries of the year. Her gimmick was inspired and her song was catchy as hell. And girl on girl kissing is awesome. I was taking it too seriously. I’m sorry Krista.

Similarly, I looked down on Cezar. By the time Romania’s national final rolled round in March I and many other ESC fans were desperately looking for something to challenge Denmark. Cezar was not that thing we were looking for. He was something completely different. I now regret that I couldn’t foresee the bedazzled dracula staging and the high camp theatre he would bring to Eurovision. I’m sorry Cezar.

Sorry.

Sorry.

“Was massively excited to see Zlata has entered Ukraine’s NF. Then I heard her song”. Poor Zlata, I had been hotly anticipating her eventual National Final success for years, but when it came, I didn’t like it. She must have been devastated. I should have given Gravity a chance, but in December I wanted The Kukushka and nothing else. As it turned out, Gravity was an even better choice than her 2011 effort. Zlata was right to focus on showing off her vocal talents front and centre. She knocked it out of the park. Even the giant kinda worked. I was wrong and for that I am sorry.

I think the biggest apology has to go to Eurovision 2013 as a whole. For the longest time, I’ve been saying this wasn’t going to be a good year. This notion crops up among fans every year and normally subsides well before the last of the entries come in in March. This year it persisted all the way up to the contest itself. I’m not saying that today. The standard in the final was as good as ever. I was spoilt for choice for songs to vote for.

SVT were a fantastic host. The lift-a-licious stage was magnificent and Malmö arena didn’t look small at all on tv. I liked Petra. Her “posh” accent may sound like she’s recording a “Learn English in 5 days” CD, but she was otherwise a very capable host and a great interval act artiste. One thing, though. If SVT get to host again, can we please keep Eric Saade far far away from the broadcast? He was awful in the green room. #twat

It may not quite have matched 2012 for overall song quality, but 2013 at least ran it close and probably beat Baku as an overall tv package. We shouldn’t have doubted you Malmö. Sorry.

Posted in Azerbaijan, Finland, Iceland, Malmö 2013, Romania, Ukraine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Battles of Malmo

Ding ding! Eurovision may be a competition of 39 countries, but within the annual battle royale of Europop there are little individual head-to-heads to be won. Some entrants will find themselves battling it out in the same voter territory, a bit like UKIP and the Tories, or Denise Van Outen and Holly Valance in Strictly. To get the result you want at ESC, you first need to win the smaller fight. Seconds out.

Dina Garipova vs Nodi & Sophie

dina garipova nodi and sophieThis is a fight of love vs peace. Two Eurovision staples of safe and boring subject matter performed in the safest and dullest of ways. There are only so many fans of soppy imported Swedish ballads for these two to fight over. Most of them seem to be in the juries, which makes this a battle for the hearts and minds of the supposed music experts. The winner will probably be the one who sings best (a talent where they will both be outshone by the likes of Zlata, Amandine and Valentina anyway). Personally, I hope they both lose.

Decision: Double Knock Out

Dorians vs Adrian Lulgjaraj and Bledar Sejko

Dorians Adrian Lulgjaraj and Bledar Sejko I watch Eurovision with a group of friends who love their rock music and unfailingly vote for rock songs every year. Theirs is a significant niche to target at ESC and Armenia and Albania will be fighting for their backing in semi 2. Realistically, there’s only room for one of them in the final. While I think Albania is more of a proper hard rock song, my money is on Armenia’s poppier effort to get through. They’ve got a stronger vocal on their side and a bigger diaspora base to draw upon.

Decision: Dorians by stoppage

Natalie vs Bonnie

cascada bonnie

Don’t you know who they are? Germany and UK are entering two of the most internationally famous acts that Eurovision has seen in years. Who can best mobilise their fanbase? Regardless of the differences in their songs, these two will be lumped together by the media. If there ends up being a big difference between the two, their results may even be seen as instructive on what big stars can achieve at Eurovision. I think it will be a close contest, but Cascada’s song is more modern and their live vocal stronger. Germany will just come out on top.

Decision: Germany on penalties.

Krista vs Cezar

krista cezarWho cares about winning? These two are at Eurovision to make an impression. When people gather at work the Monday after Eurovision, they’re going to be talking about the batty entries of Finland and Romania. They’re going big on theatricality to grab the attention of the continent, one by staging a wedding, the other by singing at an ungodly high pitch. They’re in the same semi, but I think both have enough in their bags of tricks to get through and wow everyone in the final. I’ve always preferred Krista’s song; it’s one of my favourites this year, but I think Cezar’s just that little bit quirkier and from the little I’ve seen from his rehearsal, the live performance will be ridiculous. He’ll be the one with his face in the papers.

Decision: Cezar by an octave.

Gianluca vs ByeAlex

Gianluca ByeAlexThese two are the opposite to Krista and Cezar. Malta and Hungary have been criticised as countries who are going to blend in. They’re too cosy, too simple, too nice. They’ve both got good songs, though. They have a shot at qualification if they can find a way to turn appreciation of their nice song into votes. Gianluca is the more naturally charming performer and will need his big smile to be at its pearliest. ByeAlex, meanwhile will need to find a way to showcase his sister’s cartoons to draw people towards him. However, the producers have been unkind in putting him before hot-favourite Norway in the running order, although he is at least later in the show. I like Hungary’s effort more, but I’ll pick Gianluca in this one. I just hope one of them will prove nice guys don’t always finish last.

Decision: Gianluca on points

Who See vs Hannah

who see hannah

After Loreen’s win last year, a lot of countries have tried to emulate her success by injecting dance music into their entries. These are the two who will bring dubstep to Malmo and go head to head in semi 1 on Tuesday. You’ve got to respect Montenegro. After sending the mad genius of Rambo Amadeus last year, this time they send Who See with a full-on dubstep number. They take risks. They probably won’t pay off, but we don’t want a safe and comfortable ESC. Hannah plays it safer. Her dance influence comes in the form of an ugly dubstep splurge over a more conventional pop song. I find the whole thing rather patched together and soulless. Who See are miles better. So, of course, Hannah will win.

Decision: Hannah by controversial judges’ verdict

Margaret vs Emmelie

Margaret EmmelieThis is the big one. Forget Ukraine, Norway and Denmark are the ones who will fight it out for the trophy. Two expertly crafted pop songs with a big time feel and distinctive (yet ungimmicky) staging. They’re also fighting over the same voting bloc. It will be interesting to see who Sweden, Finland et al pick out of the two. Margaret for me has the edge. She has a great stage presence and is immensely watchable. Her song feels more original compared to Emmelie’s Celtic whistle and drum dominated song. This is going to make me sound very girly, but I also think it’s a mistake for Emmelie to change her dress and hair for Malmo. She’s lost a lot of the humble earthiness that was so appealing in Dansk Melodi Grand Prix. I think we’re going to Norway next year.

Decision: Knockout for Margaret

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