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.

Recap of 2019 Semifinal One

Ooo, that was rough.

Not our predictions. We went 7 out of 10. Yay, us!

Jen:

  • Cyprus
  • Poland
  • Czech Republic
  • Hungary
  • Serbia
  • Belgium
  • Australia
  • Iceland
  • Estonia
  • Greece
Chris:

  • Cyprus
  • Poland
  • Czech Republic
  • Hungary
  • Serbia
  • Belgium
  • Australia
  • Iceland
  • Estonia
  • Greece
Europe:

  • Greece
  • Belarus
  • Serbia
  • Cyprus
  • Estonia
  • Czech Republic
  • Australia
  • Iceland
  • San Marino
  • Slovenia

But it didn’t seem like any of the acts performing last night really wanted to qualify. Low energy, pitchy vocals: it was tough to get through most of the songs. Six of the 10 acts that made it to the Final need to sing far better than they did on Tuesday, full stop.

Of the countries that didn’t qualify, we are the most sad about Poland, who we thought were fabulous. Unfortunately, it felt like there was only room for one strange act to make it out of the Semifinal, and Iceland pipped both them and Portugal for the spot.

Hatari are an absolute delight and even though Klemens Nikulásson’s vocal frayed towards the end, it really isn’t about the vocal with “Hatrið Mun Sigra.” The whole package is something to behold.

Speaking of things to gape at with wonder, let’s talk about Australia. Hatari super-fan Kate Miller-Heidke already had a breathtaking staging for “Zero Gravity” at the national final, and she and her team found a way to push it even further. It was beautiful.

Serbia may not have had the staging firepower that Australia had, but Nevena Božović provided plenty vocal quality and air-guitar-strumming personality. She made “Kruna” come alive and is well-deserving of a place in the Final.

We thought Greece would have been vying for the top of Tuesday’s table. Sadly, the fussy props and a slightly-off performance by Katerine Duska gave us the feeling that Greece may be looking at a middling finish on Saturday night. Same goes for Cyprus. The choreography was a bit busy, Tamta’s vocal was a bit weak, and the camera trick looked more like a glitch than an intentional effect.

Of course, Katerine and Tamta’s vocals were nothing compared to Serhat’s at the start of “Say Na Na Na.” He was singing in an entirely different key for the first third of the song! How on earth did San Marino make it to the Final? Is the #Serhat4Saturday contingent that powerful?

Executive producer Jon Ola Sand tweeted that 10th and 11th place were separated by just two points. If San Marino edged Hungary or Poland by two points, we will be quite annoyed. We thought “Az én apám” was a bit dull, but we thought Joci Pápai’s presentation was far more professional than whatever it was that Serhat did.

While we still have our grumpy pants on, can we tell you how much we have grown to detest “Storm?” We picked Estonia to go through, yet we were totally rooting against them. Victor Crone’s vocal was so constipated we were worried he was going to give himself hemorrhoids.

Obviously, we selected the wrong country beginning with B-E-L in our picks. We should have had more confidence in Belarus. (Wait, did we just say that?) “Like It” was fresh and fun. To be sure, ZENA relied on her back-up vocals to carry parts of the song while she executed the choreography. Still, we had a good feeling about her chances to get through to the Final, especially after Belgium landed with a thud.

Although we picked against them, we weren’t surprised Slovenia qualified. We are still not fans of “Sebi” or Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl’s almost uncomfortably intimate presentation. But they definitely stood out with a gentle song performed well in front of a simple and effective backdrop.

Finally, let’s give some love to Czech Republic. “Friend of a Friend” has become one of our family favorites, a song in heavy rotation when we’re listing to the official album in the car or making dinner. Lake Malawi took the Instagram-inspired concept of their official video and made it work in a concert setting. And they were utterly charming to boot.

As for the production itself, we watched it on replay so we didn’t encounter any of the technical glitches that many broadcasters reported. The show seemed to go smoothly, with four hosts who popped up unobtrusively throughout the night to fill gaps and occasionally embarrass Spanish Song Contest representatives. We loved Netta’s opening reprise of “Toy” framed around her journey to Eurovision and we really enjoyed the Song Contest history collage that KUTIMAN put together. We didn’t know we needed a Johnny Logan-Benjamin Ingrosso mash up in our lives!

Our Predictions: 2019 Semifinal One

Our son made his predictions debut last year and declined to do it this year lest he embarrass himself. Unlike him, we have no sense of shame, so here we go again.

Jen:

  • Cyprus
  • Poland
  • Czech Republic
  • Hungary
  • Serbia
  • Belgium
  • Australia
  • Iceland
  • Estonia
  • Greece
Chris:

  • Cyprus
  • Poland
  • Czech Republic
  • Hungary
  • Serbia
  • Belgium
  • Australia
  • Iceland
  • Estonia
  • Greece

We made the same damned picks as each other again. We are two different people, we collectively swear.

How confident are we? Meh?

Cyprus: Tamta – “Replay”

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

Cyprus is trying too hard to recreate the magic of “Fuego,” but no matter. “Replay” is still a lot of fun.

Montenegro: D Mol – “Heaven”

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

Montenegro has played it so safe, they are actually taking a huge risk. Which won’t pay off.

Finland: Darude feat. Sebastian Rejman – “Look Away”

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

Forget “Look Away,” have you heard Darude’s remix of Pænda’s “Limits?” This whole Eurovision journey will be worth it if Darude remixes all of the other entries. We want to see what he could do with “Say Na Na Na.”

Poland: Tulia – “Fire of Love (Pali się)”

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

“Fire of Love” and “Telemóveis” operate in the same space in our minds. We genuinely have no idea what casual viewers are going to think about either of them. We’re giving Tulia the edge here, but we wouldn’t be shocked if this doesn’t qualify.

Slovenia: Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl – “Sebi”

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

Zala and Gašper are giving an anti-performance, and that internalized stage picture may alienate everyone watching. Keep in mind, however, we’re still bitter about Ema 2019.

Czech Republic: Lake Malawi – “Friend of a Friend”

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

Czech Republic are in the perfect spot to kick Semifinal One back into high gear. We bet they will be rewarded for waking everyone up.

Hungary: Joci Pápai – “Az én apám”

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

Joci is a great performer with a clear vision of who he is as an artist. And he can tell his stories while still communicating in his own language. Our confidence level would be higher if we weren’t still unfairly comparing “Az én apám” to “Origo.”

Belarus: Zena – “Like It”

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

We really enjoy the recorded version of “Like It,” but we suspect it is too inconsequential to make much of an impact. They have done themselves no favors with a messy staging.

Serbia: Nevena Božović – “Kruna”

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

Every year we try to gauge Europe’s desire for the style of ballad Nevena is providing. We are usually wrong. Still, this is a song that comes alive when she sings it, so we figure she’s through.

Belgium: Eliot – “Wake Up”

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

We have absolutely no read on “Wake Up.”  The song is fine, its staging is inconsequential, and we have seen both before. Ten songs will make it out of this semifinal. Qualification by default.

Georgia: Oto Nemsadze – “Keep on Going”

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

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

Australia: Kate Miller-Heidke – “Zero Gravity”

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

The technical achievement of Australia’s staging is staggering: Kate is singing flawlessly while flinging herself around on a 10-foot pole, while two performers are doing synchronized choreography on their own 10-foot poles. Wow.

Iceland: Hatari – “Hatrið mun sigra”

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

We love what Hatari are doing, but we also love Nine Inch Nails and Paul Oscar. We could see a scenario where they alienate viewers and their shtick falls flat. We hope not, though.

Estonia: Victor Crone – “Storm”

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

“Storm” actively annoys us and we think the green screen gimmick is too clumsy to work. But we’ve been wrong about it before, so we’ll assume that television audiences will respond to it.

Portugal: Conan Osiris – “Telemóveis”

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

Our gut feeling is that “Telemóveis” will baffle anyone being introduced to it for the first time. Will we be surprised if it makes the Final? No. But we really aren’t expecting it to.

Greece: Katerine Duska – “Better Love”

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

There is a possibility that Greece has over-egged their galaktoboureko. But even if the stage picture is a little busy, Katerine sounds like she has everything under control.

San Marino: Serhat – “Say Na Na Na”

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

San Marino and Serhat are the Tommy Wiseau of the Eurovision Song Contest: They love basking in the attention they get without really understanding why they’re getting it.

Things We Learned By Reading the Bios of the 2019 Eurovision Participants

It’s the end of the first full week of activity at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. We’ve been following along with the rehearsals via Twitter. We’ve been developing harsh opinions about 45 second clips. We’ve been dismissing people with harsh opinions about 45 second clips. And we’ve been scouring all of the artist bios on the Eurovision website, looking for little gems that help us glean insight into our favorite performers at the 2019 Song Contest.

As you might expect, Hatari (Iceland) don’t bury their lede: “Award-winning, anti-capitalist, BDSM, techno-dystopian, performance art collective Hatari are proud to represent Iceland at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, brought to you almost exclusively by premier, top quality, Icelandic effervescent soft drink manufacturer SodaDream.” (SodaDream being the corporate brand they invented as their sponsor for the Song Contest and a sly dig at Israeli company SodaStream.) They also “invite you all to join them on their nihilistic journey to the centre of the earth.”

They are so going to pull some sort of protest stunt in the Grand Final, aren’t they?

During our review, we saw a lot of references to artists’ social media cred. Bilal Hassani (France) talks about finding fame through his YouTube channel. Zena (Belarus) brags about her 93,000 subscribers on Instagram. Then Jonida Maliqi (Albania) barges in to say “With her 435,000 Instagram followers she is a well known influencer and fashion icon in her home country.” Take that, Zena. Also, Jonida had better not win the Barbara Dex award.

It’s always fun to learn geography while we peruse each article. Chingiz (Azerbaijan) grew up in the awesomely named Qazax, which needs to be the name of a progressive metal band. Michela (Malta) is from the island of Gozo, which we think makes her a Gozerian. Meanwhile, Eliot (Belgium) is from Mons. Aren’t we all?

As you might expect, singers who had a hand in writing their entries will brag about their list of credits. Kate Miller-Heidke (Australia) notes that she co-wrote an opera called The Rabbits, which looks awesome, and a musical version of Muriel’s Wedding, which looks… less awesome. Then again, all Muriel’s Wedding needs to be a musical is scads of ABBA songs, unless that’s a little too Mamma Mia! Still, you can see where the theatricality of Australia’s staging comes from.

Pænda (Austria) says she is “avoiding pretentiousness” in her style and that she “left behind the fear of being too straightforward in her style of composing.” So avoiding pretentiousness is a daily struggle, really. No wonder she tackles the subject of self-awareness on her new album.

Tom Hugo Hermansen of KEiiNO (Norway) mentions that he wrote songs for K-Pop artists EXO, SHiNee and TVXQ. Our somewhat exhaustive research indicates his biggest hit to date is TVXQ’s “Very Merry Christmas,” which was a top 10 hit in Japan.

Some artists feel like they have something to prove with their participation. For example, Darude (Finland) would like you to know that he remains “as fresh and exciting as ever.” Also, the “charismatic [Sebastian] Rejman will bring a fresh vitality and admirable live element to Darude’s musical backdrop.” Truly, Finland is this year’s Freshmaker.

In fine Swedish tradition, John Lundvik (Sweden) says he’s “an incredibly authentic singer who, with intimacy and great musicality, raises the level of the Swedish music scene.” First things first, he’s the realest.

He does mention that he co-wrote the United Kingdom entry, and speaking of, Michael Rice says that he put his £50,000 prize for winning the BBC show All Together Now towards his mom’s restaurant The Waffle & Crepe Shack. You know we’re going to eat there next time we’re in Hartlepool. Never mind that it’s a five hour drive from where we usually visit. His mom makes Jaffa Cake milkshakes. We. Are. Going.

Several artists at Eurovision have had to toil as they tried to launch their music career. Sarah McTernan (Ireland) took time off from studying music technology at Limerick Institute of Technology to work in retail. D Moll (Montenegro) are all music students at a school started by Daniel Alibabek from No Name, who represented Serbia and Montenegro at the 2005 Song Contest. Luca Hänni (Switzerland) trained as a bricklayer, which means “he likes getting stuck in with both hands.” Take note, ladies: he’s handy!

And returning artist Serhat (San Marino) is a qualified dentist who also hosted the Turkish version of Jeopardy! A direct quote from his bio: “Having mastered the art of dentistry and television, Serhat turned his eye to performing music…” The man is so self-aware that he becomes not self-aware at all, and we love him for it.

Lest you think Serhat is the only artist returning from Eurovision 2016 who is a triple threat, then let’s consider Sergey Lazarev (Russia). He is an actor who has performed in Romeo and Juliet and Lend Me a Tenor. How many Russian pop stars can claim they have done Shakespearean tragedy and Ludwigean farce? But the best thing about Sergey is that he owns Poodle-Strudel, a Moscow bakery for dogs.

 

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Reviews of the Rest of Eurovision 2019

Eurovision rehearsals are about to begin and we weren’t able to complete full reviews of all of this year’s entries in time. So let’s take a deep breath and cover all the rest in one go!

Finland: Darude feat. Sebastian Rejman – “Look Away

Darude had a global smash hit 19 years ago with “Sandstorm.” Now he’s representing Finland at Eurovision. We mock the United Kingdom when they do stuff like that and we see no reason to spare Finland our snark. Especially when the U.K. nostalgia acts send better songs.

Belarus: Zena – “Like It

Zena offers up a slightly generic, but still quite enjoyable pop song. We… well, you know… like it. Not sure if it’s going to do well for Belarus, but with the right staging, or at least the right Belorussian staging, maybe it could surprise us.

Serbia: Nevena Božović – “Kruna

Nevena is a veteran of Moje 3, the Barbara Dex Award-winning act from 2013. She’s back with a bland ballad, but she made it soar at Beovizija 2019. We expect more vocal fireworks in Tel Aviv. And better costumes.

Belgium: Eliot Vassamillet – “Wake Up

“Wake Up” reminds us of “City Lights.” We didn’t like “City Lights,” but it seemed like everyone else did. We like “Wake Up,” but it seems like no one else does. Go figure.

Georgia: Oto Nemsadze – “Sul Tsin Iare

Oto brought a wide-eyed intensity to his performance of “Sul Tsin Iare.” It worked for the judges and the people of Georgia, but we can’t say it’s going to work for the rest of Europe.

San Marino: Serhat – “Say Na Na Na

San Marino has sent disco songs for three of its last four entries because this one time, die hard Eurovision fans convinced them that’s what we want. Maybe we should tell them that we like other genres too.

Armenia: Srbuk – “Walking Out

Srbuk looks a lot like my mom did when she was 18 and I’m struggling to get past that.

Ireland: Sarah McTernan – “22

We are not particular fans of Meghan Trainor’s oeuvre, so anything that resembles her output is not going to rank high with us. But at least it’s not another earnest ballad.

Moldova: Anna Odobescu – “Stay

Moldova is following up successive classic Eurovision contributions with a song that we will probably forget about shortly after the Song Contest is over. Sigh, it’s hard to generate memes every year.

Austria: Pænda – “Limits

“Limits” is a great song to listen to at 3 A.M. when it’s gently, but audibly raining outside and you’re feeling a little sad and need a good cry. That’s usually not the atmosphere Eurovision provides, which may hurt Austria’s chances.

Lithuania: Jurijus – “Run with the Lions

Jurijus is this dreamy guy singing an anthemic song about believing in yourself and dreaming big. It’s a pleasant three minutes made better by Jurijus’ inherent likability.

North Macedonia: Tamara Todevska – “Proud

“Proud” is an old fashioned ballad about empowering girls to believe in themselves and dream big. It’s a lovely three minutes made better by Tamara’s vocal star quality.

Israel: Kobi Marimi – “Home

Israel is happy to have won Eurovision and is also not interested in winning again this year.

Greece’s Eurovision 2019 Entry

The past five years have not been kind to Greece at Eurovision. Three entries finished towards the bottom of the table on Saturday nights, and two songs didn’t even qualify for the Grand Prix Final. Can “Better Love” deliver better results?

Katerine Duska is a Greek-Canadian singer born in Montreal but living and working in Greece. She co-wrote “Better Love” with singer-songwriter Leon of Athens and Fame Academy winner David Sneddon, who had a U.K. number one hit with “Stop Living the Lie.”

We love Katerine’s voice. It is rich and velvety and she uses her full range judiciously to propel her song. “Better Love” is a good entry made great by its singer. We also dig the sparkling, ethereal arrangement.

2019 has turned out to be a strong year for Eurovision, with songs that are either awesome or really unique. “Better Love” is probably the most straightforward potential contender on offer. That could be either an asset or a demerit, but we think it’s the former. Katerine has created a properly big Eurovision anthem and we hope she will snag a top 10 finish with it.