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 staging 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

Ever 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.

Mahmood - Soldi (Screenshot by Eurovision Lemurs)
“Soldi” is incorporates hip hop influences into a contemporary Italian pop sound. It gives us to 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.

Katarine Duska - Better Love (Screenshot by Eurovision Lemurs)

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 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.

Serhat - Say Na Na Na (Screenshot by Eurovision Lemurs)

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 - Proud (Screenshot by Eurovision Lemurs)

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!

The State of Our 2019 Predictions

If there is one thing we’ve learned in our years of following the Eurovision Song Contest, it’s that we probably would seem a lot smarter to casual readers if we didn’t make any damned predictions.

Jen:

  1. Australia
  2. The Netherlands
  3. France
  4. Sweden
  5. Iceland
  6. Italy
  7. Switzerland
  8. Russia
  9. North Macedonia
  10. Greece

Last Place: Germany

Chris:

  1. Australia
  2. The Netherlands
  3. Italy
  4. Iceland
  5. Sweden
  6. France
  7. Russia
  8. Greece
  9. Azerbaijan
  10. Malta

Last Place: Germany

Europe:

  1. The Netherlands
  2. Italy
  3. Russia
  4. Switzerland
  5. Norway
  6. Sweden
  7. Azerbaijan
  8. North Macedonia
  9. Australia
  10. Iceland

Last Place: United Kingdom

We actually did pretty good: Chris picked 7 out of 10 and Jen picked 8 out of 10. Compared to last year, it’s a marked improvement.

So why are we a bit disappointed? Neither of us predicted a single exact finish. We both were off the mark on who won. We picked against the winner even though we list the reasons why they would win in our predictions post. And we were really wrong about the picks we missed: Greece finished 21st, Malta finished 14th, and France finished 16th. (It seems like France has replaced United Kingdom as the country we always overvalue.)

We were also wrong about our pick for last place, but we can take pride in the fact that we were also sort of right: Germany got nul points from the public. Vindication, baby!

As mentioned in our recap, seven songs finished in the top 10 in both the televote and the jury vote. Those seven songs roughly matched up to either Jen’s or Chris’ picks and to the top ten in the betting odds going into the live shows, too. We all were mostly on the same page in the end.

In that regard, it was an easy year to call, so maybe we’re just annoyed that we could have done slightly better than we did. We may grumble about all of this now, but we doubt it’s going to stop us from doing it all over again next year.

UPDATED 5/22/2019: As noted by @euro_bruno on Twitter, the Belarussian jury vote on Saturday was a bit messed up. Today, the EBU issued a statement announcing that the error has been corrected, which gives us a new top 10 result:

Jen:

  1. Australia
  2. The Netherlands
  3. France
  4. Sweden
  5. Iceland
  6. Italy
  7. Switzerland
  8. Russia
  9. North Macedonia
  10. Greece

Last Place: Germany

Chris:

  1. Australia
  2. The Netherlands
  3. Italy
  4. Iceland
  5. Sweden
  6. France
  7. Russia
  8. Greece
  9. Azerbaijan
  10. Malta

Last Place: Germany

Europe:

  1. The Netherlands
  2. Italy
  3. Russia
  4. Switzerland
  5. Sweden
  6. Norway
  7. North Macedonia
  8. Azerbaijan
  9. Australia
  10. Iceland

Last Place: United Kingdom

We’ll look into this further to see if it changes any of our analysis beyond the fact that Chris now has an exact pick. If there isn’t another update, just assume we’ve shrugged and just kept on working on our Superlatives post!

Recap of Eurovision Song Contest 2019

Congratulations to The Netherlands, who have won the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time since 1975! To quote one of our Eurovision party guests, “The Dutch Hozier won!”

We were impressed with how well Duncan Laurence connected with the camera during his performance in the Final. He communicated the ache in the lyrics to “Arcade,” but also brought the song to a cathartic, almost joyous close. The Netherlands took a chance with a staging that could have been distancing, but instead captured the loneliness the song was describing while still giving it enough soul to capture voters’ hearts. Duncan finished second with the public and third with the jury, and that was exactly what he needed to win.

The fun part about the way the votes were presented this year is that even the casual viewers came away knowing exactly which songs resonate with the public and which resonate with the juries.

For example, San Marino finished 10th in the televote and 23rd in the jury vote. What a disparity! When we mentioned this to our son, he said, “I hate the public vote. In my opinion, the public vote ruins Eurovision!”

Czech Republic probably agrees with him. Lake Malawi finished 7th with the juries at 150 points and 24th with the public at just 7 points. That was the biggest gap between the two sets of results.

The second biggest gap went the other direction, and if any country has more of a right to complain about the jury results than San Marino, it is Norway. KEiiNO won the televote with 291 points, but only received 47 points to finish 15th with the juries. And we were so looking forward to seeing NRK’s updated clip package of Norway’s last place finishes!

While there were other interesting gulfs, there was also general agreement about the top songs. Seven entries finished in the top 10 of both voting blocs. As mentioned, this benefited “Arcade,” and it also benefited our favorite song, “Soldi.” Seeing Mahmood finish as well as he did, just 27 points behind Duncan, is gratifying. Also, he did better in the public vote than in the jury vote, which amuses us given the results at Sanremo.

On a personal note, we didn’t watch the show live this year because Jen was traveling for work. We hosted our annual Eurovision party on the Sunday instead, and we and our guests were all somehow able to avoid getting spoiled on the result beforehand. We also had the ability to skip ahead, which came in handy when we realized that Madonna’s performance was not going to get any better.

But other than that salient horror, we thought this year’s Song Contest was really good. The quality of music was high, the hosts were slightly cheesy without being overbearing, and the round robin with Conchita Wurst, Måns Zelmerlöw, Eleni Foureira, Verka Serduchka, and Gali Atari was a lot of fun.

We’re already looking up articles about Dutch cuisine to get ready for next year’s Eurovision, but we still have a lot of unfinished business to cover with this year’s Song Contest. Next up, an article about how we did both really well and really badly with our Eurovision predictions! We’re going to need to finish off the last of our Israeli wine to prepare for that post.

Our Predictions: 2019 Grand Final

It’s Saturday, May 18, and the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest still feels like anyone’s competition. Considering at least one of us has trouble picking the winner even when the winner is obvious (*ahemchrisahem*), choosing the champion this year seems daunting.

But we are both in agreement on who we think will take the crown, even though she’s already wearing one.

Jen:

  1. Australia
  2. The Netherlands
  3. France
  4. Sweden
  5. Iceland
  6. Italy
  7. Switzerland
  8. Russia
  9. North Macedonia
  10. Greece

Last Place: Germany

Chris:

  1. Australia
  2. The Netherlands
  3. Italy
  4. Iceland
  5. Sweden
  6. France
  7. Russia
  8. Greece
  9. Azerbaijan
  10. Malta

Last Place: Germany

In the past decade, the Eurovision Song Contest winner has come from as high as 10th in the draw (“Heroes”) and as low as 22nd (“Toy” and “Satellite”).  Of the acts we see as contenders, The Netherlands, France, Italy, and Iceland are performing within that range. Switzerland, Australia, and particularly Sweden and Russia are not.

So we should pick The Netherlands to win. They are still the odds leader going into tonight’s show and they were given about as good a place to perform as they could after drawing into the first half.

And we both would normally count Australia out by going second to last, because audience fatigue usually sets in by then. But we also think that their staging is a triumph. If anyone is flagging towards the end of the show, Kate Miller-Heidke should easily wake them up. She will be fresh in everyone’s minds when the voting opens.

That said, our confidence on our choice is pretty low. We can make rational arguments for every country we picked in our top five, so we would not be surprised if The Netherlands, France, Iceland, Italy, or even Sweden won. But both of our guts say Australia.

We also agree is that Germany is going to finish dead last. They are fourth in the running order with a mediocre song that is not staged particularly well. On their brows we see that written which is Doom.

Eurovision 2019: A Primer for Saturday Night Viewing

It’s time once again for the Eurovision Song Contest! For some reason, Madonna is going perform her new song during the show. But more importantly than that, Verka Serduchka and Conchita Wurst are back as part of an interval act!

But enough about drag icons, let’s answer your questions about this year’s competitors.

Who Are the Contenders?

Duncan Laurence of The Netherlands has led the odds ever since he released his song “Arcade.” It has a striking video that also features a lovely view of his bare tush. But the song is good too!

After the Dutch entry, the betting has been all over the place. Nine other countries have been second-favorite with the bookies over the past couple of months. The spot is currently occupied by Australia. Kate Miller-Heidke has brought a opera-inflected pop song and a spectacular staging that could overshadow The Netherlands’ more straightforward presentation.

Other countries who are in with a shot include France, who have gotten a lot of attention for their androgynous teen star Bilal Hassani. He tackles bullying and acceptance head-on in his song “Roi.”

Mahmood from Italy tells a personal story about his relationship with his father in the hip hop-infused “Soldi.” It’s our personal favorite at this year’s Song Contest.

Sweden’s John Lundvik offers up a ton of charisma with the gospel-tinged “Too Late for Love.” Fun fact: John also co-wrote this year’s United Kingdom entry “Bigger Than Us.”

Sergey Lazarev has returned to represent Russia with another high concept staging involving glass cases of emotion. He also has a song, too, but really it’s about the glass cases of emotion.

Switzerland, of all countries, has gotten a lot of attention so far for Luca Hänni’s “She Got Me,” which is essentially the bro version of last year’s sensation “Fuego.”

Then there is Iceland. There has never been an act like Hatari at Eurovision before. Even Lordi would look at the Icelandic BDSM theatrical anti-capitalist techno-punk band and say, ‘Whoa, that’s out there.” Their song “Hatrið Mun Sigra” (“Hatred Will Prevail”) is gritty, grimy, and catchy as hell. They’ve also been very critical of Israel’s handling of Gaza and the West Bank and keep talking about having a crush on Teresa May, so the possibility of them winning must be giving the European Broadcasting Union fits.

Did Spain Bring a Giant Puppet?

Yes.

Who Are the Teenaged Girls with Pop Bangers?

18-year-old Michela Pace opens the show on Saturday. She won Malta‘s version of The X Factor to book her ticket to Tel Aviv. The slinky, bouncy “Chameleon” is a fresh and fun song, and the staging plays off the title at every opportunity.

The youngest competitor is 16-year-old ZENA. She co-hosted the Junior Eurovision Song Contest when it was held in her native Belarus last year. Her song “Like It” is, well, likable!

Did Denmark Send a Figure Skater to Sing a Song About Peace and Love?

Of course they did.

WE WANT DIVAS!

That’s not a question, but we will answer you anyway. There is a lot of vocal firepower on offer this Saturday. North Macedonia shows off its new name with their first Final since 2012. The song “Proud” may be a bit old-fashioned, but Tamara Todevska brings a lot of drama and grace to it.

Greece chose Katerine Duska as their artist, and she has a gorgeous, rich vocal tone that elevates her song “Better Love.” She would probably be a dark horse contender for the title if Greece’s staging wasn’t so cluttered.

Jonida Maliqi represents Albania with a song about Albanians displaced by the war in Kosovo. It’s a dark song with a dark staging, but Jonida gives it plenty of life.

Returning artist Nevena Božović represents Serbia with the only Balkan-style ballad on offer this year. She single-handedly makes “Kruna” compelling.

Did Norway Bring the Joik-Pop?

Norway most definitely brought the joik-pop. And spirit animals.

Can You Express Your Love for Czech Republic?

You bet we can! Lake Malawi are performing “Friend of a Friend,” a spritely little slice of 80s-era sophisti-pop gussied up with modern tech tropes. They bring charm, rock-concert star power, and a fake British accent to the proceedings and we are thankful for it! How can you not adore a band who has a LinkedIn page? They may not be contenders, but they have won our hearts.

How In the Hell Did San Marino Make It to the Final?

Because there is something inherently wonderful about a former dentist who longs to be a disco crooner and made just enough money hosting the Turkish version of Jeopardy! to make his dreams come true.

Recap of 2019 Semifinal Two

Dear Jen,

I am sorry for leading you astray on Norway. I love you and I will never hurt you in such a way ever again.

Yours,
Chris

Jen:

  • Armenia
  • Switzerland
  • Romania
  • Sweden
  • Austria
  • Malta
  • Russia
  • The Netherlands
  • North Macedonia
  • Azerbaijan
Chris:

  • Switzerland
  • Romania
  • Sweden
  • Austria
  • Malta
  • Russia
  • Norway
  • The Netherlands
  • North Macedonia
  • Azerbaijan
Europe:

  • North Macedonia
  • The Netherlands
  • Albania
  • Sweden
  • Russia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Denmark
  • Norway
  • Switzerland
  • Malta

Jen got 7 out of 10 and Chris got 8. To be honest, we probably would have done better if we both hadn’t ignored the possibility that Sweden, Norway, and Denmark might vote for each other. We don’t know that yet, but it does seem pretty likely, right?

We didn’t think Norway was particularly good, though. “Spirit In the Spy” played almost like a parody of Eurovision, a sort of Scandi-Scooch. Then again, the guests at our upcoming Eurovision party have all been excited about joik-pop since we watched Jon Henrik Fjällgren at Melodifestivalen this year, so at least we know they will be happy.

We may despise “Love Is Forever,” but we can’t argue Denmark didn’t give it a good staging or that Leonora didn’t give a good performance. And Sweden was the best of the Scandinavian bunch. John Lundvik has somehow found a fresh new vein of smoldering charm and we’re here for it.

He wasn’t the only act tapping into their reserves of magnetism. The Netherlands has come under criticism for its sparse staging and overuse of long shots. But when Duncan Laurence has the chance to look into the camera, only the most hardened, cynical Eurovision fan could resist melting into his eyes.

And he made the other dreamboats who clinched spots in the Final look like awkward tweens in comparison. Luca Hänni from Switzerland has a certain boyish charm, but the staging for “She Got Me” doesn’t give him much of a chance to really play the camera. Our son watched the performance and said, “It’s like ‘Fuego’ crossed with ‘Dance You Off.'” He’s not wrong.

Speaking of how smart our son is, he said while watching Jonida Maliqi perform, “Albania could qualify with that.” You can imagine his excitement at the end of the night when it turned out he was right. (If only he had made predictions for us this year!)

At first we thought North Macedonia was going to be our unconventional pick. But  Tamara Todevska’s performance of “Proud” was so captivating that we had no doubt she was through to the Final. North Macedonia has never had a top 10 finish before, so we wonder if this is their year. Pity the song is still a bit musty.

We loved Malta’s staging for “Chameleon,” but Michela looked a bit lost and sounded a bit nervous. We’ve heard Malta have kept futzing around with the staging, which may have affected her confidence. No worries: plenty of artists suffer Semifinal jitters only to give stronger performances in the Final. We hope that Michela can do the same.

We disagree a bit on Russia. Jen thought Sergey Lazarev’s staging concept was effective. She got chills watching it. Chris thought it was initially cool, but wore out its welcome by the end of the song. In either case, we think “Scream” is going to do well, but probably not improve on Sergey’s previous result.

At least Sergey’s concept worked. What was Azerbaijan’s staging meant to convey? Chingiz is trapped by lasers for the first 1:20 of his song, barely lit and playing second fiddle to robotic arms. Then he spends the next 90 seconds playing second fiddle to a giant animated head in the backdrop. Then somehow the North Macedonian flag propels his soul out of his body. What does all that mean? That love feels like a near death experience during a post-heart surgery CAT scan in Skopje?

Still, he made it to the Final, so someone got the concept.

As for the acts that didn’t qualify, we actually feel bad for all of them! No real flops tonight, just songs that didn’t get enough votes. Everyone should feel good about how they did. If only one of them could be chosen to replace Serhat.

Our Predictions: 2019 Semifinal Two

Okay, everyone, you saw how the first Semifinal went. Don’t be that Semifinal. BE CHAMPIONS.

Jen:

  • Armenia
  • Switzerland
  • Romania
  • Sweden
  • Austria
  • Malta
  • Russia
  • The Netherlands
  • North Macedonia
  • Azerbaijan
Chris:

  • Switzerland
  • Romania
  • Sweden
  • Austria
  • Malta
  • Russia
  • Norway
  • The Netherlands
  • North Macedonia
  • Azerbaijan

Hey, we differ on one pick! We are totally different people!

Armenia: Srbuk – “Walking Out”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Low.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: Low.

Jen thinks this is a good opener that should be memorable enough to get votes (especially from the juries) at the end of the night. Chris thinks it is going to get lost in the shuffle.

Ireland: Sarah McTernan – “22”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: Medium.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: Medium.

Ireland is going for a very cutesy staging, full of bright colors, pop art, and a soda fountain counter. Sure it all plays into the style of song, but we think it looks cheesy.

Moldova: Anna Odobescu – “Stay”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: High.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: Medium.

Moldova hired the sand artist that worked for Ukraine in 2011, just to show you how devoid of originality this whole package really is. And they don’t trust her to do the sand art live.

Switzerland: Luca Hänni – “She Got Me”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Medium.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Medium.

Luca is giving us IMRI vibes. Switzerland will probably qualify for the Final, but we’re no longer sure this is a top 10 contender.

Latvia: Carousel – “That Night”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: High.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: Medium.

We give Latvia credit for thinking outside of the box with their selection. Not that we think they will land much of an impact.

Romania: Ester Peony – “On a Sunday”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Low.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Low.

Ester has brought the kitchen sink to Tel Aviv. We are hoping she will be a hoot.

Denmark: Leonora – “Love Is Forever”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: Low.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: Low.

Denmark at its most insufferably smug. We are picking against them because we don’t like ourselves when we are stabby.

Sweden: John Lundvik – “Too Late for Love”

Jen – Q. Confidence: High.
Chris – Q. Confidence: High.

Rather than relying on stage gimmicks, Sweden focuses on their star. John shines as a performer and gives “Too Late for Love” a lot of personality.

Austria: Pænda – “Limits”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Low.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Low.

“Limits” is a tough one to call. Gentle, intimate songs often struggle to connect. On the other hand, Pænda will bring a lot of emotional depth to it. It really could go either way.

Croatia: Roko – “The Dream”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: Medium.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: High.

Doesn’t Croatia realize that Elnur & Samir ruined angel wings at Eurovision forever?

Malta: Michela – “Chameleon”

Jen – Q. Confidence: High.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Medium.

“Chameleon” is one of our favorites this year, and we really hope it works live. We’re nervous and excited at the same time.

Lithuania: Jurij Veklenko – “Run with the Lions”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: Medium.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: Medium.

Lithuania is relying entirely on Jurij’s charisma to carry them through. In a tight Semi with a really strong back half, that might be a bridge too far.

Russia: Sergey Lazarev – “Scream”

Jen – Q. Confidence: High.
Chris – Q. Confidence: High.

Sergey has brought Ani Lorak’s glass cases of emotion and added a little extra oomph to them. And by oomph, we mean a lot of footage of himself emoting. Still, it looks fun and we can’t wait to see the full package.

Albania: Jonida Maliqi – “Ktheju tokës”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: Medium.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: Low.

We are no experts on Albanian culture, but this feels very Albanian. It also feels like it will alienate general audiences and international jurors alike.

Norway: KEiiNO – “Spirit in the Sky”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: Low.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Low.

Chris somehow convinced Jen that “Spirit in the Sky” is going to fall flat on its face. He is also not standing by his earlier conviction and is picking it to go through. What a jerk.

The Netherlands: Duncan Laurence – “Arcade”

Jen – Q. Confidence: High.
Chris – Q. Confidence: High.

The Netherlands has given “Arcade” a staging that deemphasizes the performer and really emphasizes the song. It’s a risky move given all the bling the other heavy hitters are bringing. Give them credit for boldness.

North Macedonia: Tamara Todevska – “Proud”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Low.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Medium.

Tamara is going to sing the living daylights out of “Proud.” Even though it’s a stodgy ballad, we figure she will qualify on sheer diva power.

Azerbaijan: Chingiz – “Truth”

Jen – Q. Confidence: High.
Chris – Q. Confidence: High.

“Truth” is another popular song in the Lemurs household, and it sounds like Azerbaijan has given it the usual Azerbaijani high concept staging. Good ol’ Azerbaijan, giving the people what we want.