The 2019 Eurovision That Almost Was: Semifinal Two

You would think that our review of the Semifinal Two that might have been would have been easy given that eight of the countries listed here went for internal selections. But spend some time contemplating “Tower of Babylon” and you may understand the enormity of the task we are undertaking.

Armenia: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Ireland: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Moldova: Maxim Zavidia – “I Will Not Surrender

“I Will Not Surrender” is a moderately rocking pop number about believing in yourself. It’s made special by the fact that Maxim is dressed like a Star Wars character yearning to break free from the corporate job he got on Coruscant.

Switzerland: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Latvia: Markus Riva – “You Make Me So Crazy

This is Markus’ sixth attempt to represent Latvia at Eurovision and “You Make Me So Crazy” is one of his stronger efforts. Unfortunately for him, he had the best dance anthem out of several others on offer at Supernova and everyone in Latvia voted for the song that did not sound like a dance anthem.

Romania: Laura Bretan – “Dear Father

Laura is a 17-year-old who has already won Romania’s Got Talent and finished sixth on America’s Got Talent. She does a Houdek in “Dear Father,” going from pop voice to operatic soprano at the song’s climax. We think it’s pretty awful, so we’re not complaining too much that TVR gave their international jury way too much say in determining the winner of their national final.

Denmark: Julie & Nina – “League of Light

“League of Light” is a real missed opportunity. Julie & Nina are from Greenland and they spiced up their bland schlager song with some lyrics in Greenlandic. It operates in the same space as KEiiNO’s “Spirit In the Sky,” except that “Spirit In the Sky” goes all in while “League of Light” just checks on the flop. As much as it pains us to say this, “Love Is Forever” was the right choice to represent Denmark.

Sweden: Bishara – “On My Own

Bishara is a 16-year-old singer who is performing a song that is way more mature than his immature voice and angelic looks can carry off. Not surprisingly, “On My Own” is by Benjamin Ingrosso, who knows a lot about singing songs that are uncomfortable fits for their performer.

Austria: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Croatia: Lorena Bućan – “Tower of Babylon

Oh wow. If you thought that the only thing missing from mid-’00s mid-table Eurovision pop entries were vaguely Middle Eastern-influenced orchestrations, then have we got a song for you! Lorena sells it for all it is worth, though, which just makes it all the more wonderful.

Malta: Owen Leuellen – Song internally selected.

Owen covered “Gangsta’s Paradise” during X Factor Malta. He also rhymed “Picasso,” “lost bro,” and “not slow” with “Ira Losco” in the finale. Honestly, he’s kinda delightful. Maybe a bit wack, but kinda delightful.

Lithuania: Monika Marija – “Light On

As much as we like it when Jurijus peers deep into our soul, we had been rooting for Monika to win the Lithuanian national final. “Light On” has a bit more of a lyrical edge to it than “Run with the Lions,” and Monika delivered a big performance that could have been honed to near perfection by the time she arrived in Tel Aviv.

Russia: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Albania: Lidia Lufi – “Rrëfehem

“Rrëfehem” starts off sounding like weird fado. Then it gets all Albanian orchestral metal. Then Mike Pompeo shows up to do a big-ass sax solo at the end. It’s really odd, which is something we seem to say about Festivali i Këngës also-rans every year.

Norway: Adrian Jørgensen – “The Bubble

Adrian and his guitar evoke Ed Sheeran via Michael Schulte.  Saying that probably doesn’t give “The Bubble” enough credit for being a pretty good folk-pop song, but let’s be honest: it’s not “Spirit In the Sky,” is it?

The Netherlands: Internal selection. Not applicable.

North Macedonia: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Azerbaijan: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Germany: Makeda – “The Day I Loved You Most

If S!sters performed an overwrought show tune at Unser Lied, Makeda performed an overwrought cabaret number. She over-sang it by a country mile, so we suspect Germany’s Eurovision fate was sealed from the get-go.

Italy: Ultimo – “I tuoi particolari

“I tuoi particolari” has a really simple chorus that frequently gets stuck in our heads, but after while it feels like Ultimo is yelling at us within our own brains. Not cool, Ultimo, get out of our skulls!

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

As usual, the BBC never released the voting tallies for You Decide. It’s basically one more thing to be annoyed about when thinking about how the BBC handles its Eurovision entry year in and year out.

The 2019 Eurovision That Almost Was: Semifinal One

We had some serious questions at the end of this year’s first Semifinal: Did anyone want to qualify? Would MARUV been any better if Ukraine hadn’t pulled out? And were there better songs everyone could have sent?

We will never know the answers those first two questions, but we can imagine the answer to the third one by looking back at the also-rans from the national final season. We are also looking at the Big Six entries who voted in Semifinal One since Eurovision shows clips of their jury performances during the interval while the EBU rushes to declare a valid result without necessarily paying attention to which jurors clearly screwed up their ballots.

Cyprus: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Montenegro: Ivana Popović-Martinović – “Nevinost

“Nevinost” is a standard issue ballad from the Balkan peninsula. It doesn’t have as much personality as Ivana does, so we’d love to see her come back with a song that has a bit more pizzazz.

Finland: Darude feat. Sebastian Rejman – “Superman

To be honest, there wasn’t a lot of difference between the three songs on offer at UMK 2019. If you can remember how “Look Away” sounded, you can guess how “Superman” sounded.

Poland: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Slovenia: Raiven – “Kaos” 

We are still irrationally angry about this. Let’s just move on.

Czech Republic: Jakub Ondra – “Space Sushi

If this hadn’t finished second in the Czech Republic’s voting, we’d be considering it for our WTF posts. It’s an odd little Mrazy number with a nonsensical chorus that we think is about believing in yourself. It’s kind of mesmerizing in its goofiness.

Hungary: Acoustic Planet – “Nyári zápor

As usual, Hungary hasn’t released the final A Dal televote tallies. However, Acoustic Planet finished second with the jury, so we’ll go with them. You can probably figure out how they sound by the name of their band. It’s the type of bland pop song that you’d expect to hear on the soundtrack to a mid-90s dramedy about someone visiting their parents for the first time in a decade. Specifically the scene where they drive up to the family home just after a picturesque New England snowfall.

Belarus: BLGN & Mirex  – “Champion

What happens when you cross JOWST with ZIBBZ? You get BLGN & Mirex, and it’s not too shabby! Maybe it’s a bit mealy in execution, but Mirex is a pretty good vocalist and has a pretty good stage presence. It’s easy to understand why “Champion” lost to “Like it,” but we still enjoyed it.

Serbia: Dženan Lončarević – “Nema suza

“Nema suza” is a maudlin ballad with a very mawkish anti-war staging. Not to belittle the message, but it was like getting hit on the head with a hammer made of yarn.

Belgium: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Georgia: Liza Kalandadze – “Sevdisperi zgva

Liza Kalandadze is a striking, charismatic vocalist who was paired up with a twee, ethereal ballad. It’s not necessarily a bad combination, but we can’t imagine “Sevdisperi zgva” would have changed Georgia’s fortunes this year.

Australia: Electric Fields – “2000 and Whatever

Die hard Eurovision fans tuning into Australia’s first national final had a definite favorite going into the show. Electric Fields are a dance-pop duo lead by an absolute superstar of a vocalist in Zaachariaha Fielding. “2000 and Whatever” is an anthemic dance song with a unique vocal sound and it’s the perfect song to get you fired up before you head off to work or the gym.

As much as we would have loved for Electric Fields to represent Australia, we were also realistic about their chances. They came out and did a concert staging for “2000 and Whatever.” Then Kate Miller-Heidke did a Eurovision staging for “Zero Gravity.” She had the full package and she was the overwhelming choice to represent Australia. But we’re grateful we had the chance to be introduced to Electric Fields and you should totally buy their EP Inma.

Iceland: Friðrik Ómar – “Hvað ef ég get ekki elskað?

Iceland had been struggling to qualify for the Grand Final for the past few years because they usually sent the type of song Friðrik was proffering. Better to take the big risk than to play it safe yet again.

Estonia: Uku Suviste – “Pretty Little Liar

In our view, this year’s Eesti Laul final this year was lackluster. “Pretty Little Liar” is about as memorable musically as “Storm,” but without the cheesy special effects or Stig Rasta’s name in the credits.

Portugal: NBC – “Igual a Ti

“Igual a Ti” sounds like the theme song from a modern western, and NBC sells it for all it is worth. It’s pretty good, but the whole package obviously lacked the utter uniqueness of Conan Osíris and “Telemóveis.”

Greece: Internal selection. Not applicable.

San Marino: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Spain: Maria – “Muerdeme

Rumor on Twitter was that Maria didn’t really want to go to Tel Aviv. If that’s true, it kind of explains her indifferent performance. It’s like she was still at dress rehearsal. Also, the staging could have benefited from the old Coco Chanel adage of removing one thing. We’re thinking of the malt shop counter, which Ireland later picked up at a Madrid thrift store. It’s such a bummer because “Muerdeme” is a really fun song.

France: Seemone – “Tous Les Deux

Seemone’s appearance at this year’s Destination Eurovision marked the arrival of a potential major talent in French music. Imagine Adele as a  chanson singer and you can begin to get a sense of what she brought. Annoyingly, the Destination Eurovision YouTube channel has been stripped of its performance videos, but we figure it’s only a matter of time before we see Seemone representing France at Eurovision.

Israel: Ketreyah – Song internally selected.

Ketreyah is an Ethiopian-Israeli singer who was solidly the second place finisher in Israel’s Next Star for Eurovision competition. She’s a likable enough performer, but let’s be honest: regardless of his ultimate fate at Eurovision, Kobi Marimi was kind of the perfect person to represent Israel on home soil.

The 2017 Eurovision That Almost Was: Semifinal Two

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

Serbia: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Russia: Yuliya Samoylova – “Flame Is Burning

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

Austria: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Macedonia: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Malta: Janice Mangion – “Kewkba”

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

Romania: MIHAI – “I Won’t Surrender

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

Netherlands: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Hungary: Zävodi + Olivér Berkes – “#háttérzaj

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

Denmark: Ida Una – “One”

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

Ireland: Internal selection. Not applicable.

San Marino: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Croatia: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Norway: Ammunition – “Wrecking Crew”

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

Switzerland: Nadya – “The Fire in the Sky

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

Belarus: Nuteki – “Take My Heart

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

Bulgaria: Internal selection. Not applicable.

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

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

Estonia: Kerli – “Spirit Animal

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

Israel: Diana Golbi – Song internally selected.

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

France: Internal Selection. Not applicable.

Germany: Levina – “Wildfire

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

Ukraine: Tayanna – “I Love You

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

The 2017 Eurovision That Almost Was: Semifinal One

When our post-Eurovision depression kicks in, we like to imagine what would have happened if second place finishers at national finals had gone to the Grand Prix instead of the winners. Would Sweden have had an even better result with Nano? Would Slovenia have qualified with BQL? Would Portugal still would have won with… well, sometimes the questions are easy to answer.

Today we look at the countries that competed in Semifinal One, along with the automatic finalists that voted in it: United Kingdom, Spain, and Italy. (We know the wounds are still raw in Spain, and we are sorry.)

Sweden: Nano – “Hold On

“Hold On” is one of the better examples of the “things suck, but we’re gonna make it” genre. Nano sings, “I’ve got the feeling I’m going places,” and we’re hoping that means to a future Eurovision Song Contest. He was too green as a performer at this year’s Melodifestivalen, but nevertheless he was a compelling presence.

Georgia: Nutsa Buzaladze – “White Horses Run

There is a whole alternate universe Eurovision where every song is about white horses (see also: “Wild White Horses“). This one is like watching a Michelle Visage impersonator lip sync for her life while listening to an angry pigeon fight with a squirrel.

Australia: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Albania: Genc Salihu – “Këtu

The Jarvis Cocker of Albania warbles a tuneless art tune. His glasses are pretty awesome, though.

Belgium: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Montenegro: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Finland: Zühlke – “Perfect Villain

Here is the chorus of “Perfect Villain”:

What would the X-Men do
If they came to the rescue
Would they lose their courage too
If the kryptonite was you?

Neither of us are comic book nerds, but even we know Zühlke’s mixing up her comic book publishers there. Hard to argue Finland made the wrong choice this year, results notwithstanding.

Azerbaijan: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Portugal: Viva La Diva – “Nova glória”

We are happy that “Nova glória” finished second at Festival da Canção, not because it is good (it is not), but because it gives us a chance to work through our feelings about it. This won the televote! People in Portugal responded to it! Let’s repeat that: Salvador did not win the televote! This did! We admit limited knowledge about Portuguese music, so maybe this weird ’80s pop showtune with opera singers is part of some subgenre that hasn’t broken out internationally. Thank goodness.

Greece: Demy – “When the Morning Comes Around

Demy was an internal selection, so Greece’s national final let folks pick from three potential entries. “This Is Love” was the overwhelming choice from both the international jury (89% selected) and the public televote (70% selected), but “When the Morning Comes Around” did get one top vote from the Azerbaijani juror. Who knew someone in Baku had a thing for Shania Twain deep cuts? Come to think of it, we did. Remember this?

Poland: Rafał Brzozowski – “Sky Over Europe

“Sky Over Europe” isn’t good, but man, it is great. Rafał croons this puppy with a grin and a smize and even takes time to give a shout out to his trumpeter. But the best part are the lyrics:

  • In dreams I’m gonna wear a lucky clover.
  • Can’t you see over Europe the sky is burning? Welcome to our land of milk and honey.
  • Yes we’re open, but invitations are fading.
  • The night is cold and morning isn’t coming.

We’re not exactly sure what this song is about (The refugee crisis? Joining the European Union? “Yodel It!”?), but all we can say is, “Don’t die, Europe.”

Moldova: Ethno Republic & Surorile Osoianu – “Discover Moldova

Cross “Hora din Moldova” with the Russian Babushkis and you get the perfect Chisinau tourism campaign. Just not for May when Eurovision time comes around.

Iceland: Daði Freyr Pétursson – “Is This Love?”

Semifinal One would have been a lot more fun if Daði and his crew had been able to bring their 8-bit goodness to Kyiv. They would totally be the Tri-Lambs and the Omega Mus performing in the talent show during Adams College’s homecoming Greek Games in Revenge of the Nerds.

Czech Republic: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Cyprus: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Armenia: Internal selection. Not applicable.

Slovenia: BQL – “Heart of Gold

BQL (pronounced “be cool”) is an anything but cool name for a band. But they were gifted with an interesting Maraaya song. “Heart of Gold” gets a little repetitive, but unlike what eventually won EMA, it at least sounds like it came from this millennium.

Latvia: The Ludvig – “I’m In Love With You”

Accept no alternative Ludvigs. This is The Ludvig. If you rewrote the Harry Potter books so they were not about aspiring wizards but instead about sensitive Latvian singer-songwriters, they would still be magical.

By the way, can The Ludvig and Daði Freyr Pétursson go on tour together?

Italy: Fiorella Mannoia – “Che sia benedetta

We assume that Fiorella has really lived life and also has been chainsmoking since age five. “Che sia benedetta”–which at Sanremo won the Sergio Bardotti award for best lyrics and the Lucio Dalla Press, Radio, TV and Web award–is really Italian. Like, the only way it could be more Italian is if Fiorella performed holding a glass of Cinzano and then criticized the way we make fettuccine carbonara.

Spain: Mirela – “Contigo

Mirela won the televote in this year’s Objetivo Eurovision, but finished tied on points with Manel Navarro, who won the jury vote. The tie was broken by the jury vote. Never do that. The audience at Objetivo Eurovision made their displeasure known both when the winner was announced and every day henceforth through the Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final.

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

The 2016 Eurovision That Almost Was: The Big Six and Romania

We finish up our review at what might have been in Stockholm this year with a look at the high rollers and also Romania, which is, of course, the opposite of a high roller. But they totally would have qualified.

Italy: Stadio – “Un giorno mi dirai
Italy’s story this year is similar to Germany’s story last year: the winner of the music competition declines the offer to represent their country at Eurovision and the runner up lands the spot. Unlike Germany, Stadio did not go up on stage after winning Sanremo’s Big Artists competition and reject the offer in front of the entire country. They just quietly passed on the honor and RAI just as quietly gave Francesca Michielin the opportunity. It was probably for the best: “Un giorno mi dirai” is a decent mid-tempo rock ballad, but “No Degree of Separation” was a better fit for the Song Contest.

Sweden: Oscar Zia – “Human
We were worried that Sweden was really depressed after winning their sixth Eurovision Song Contest. Frans won Melodifestivalen with a zingy kiss off song dressed up as a gentle pop ballad and second place finisher Oscar Zia offered up a despondent plea for people to stop being such jerks to each other. No wonder Ace Wilder was telling everyone “Don’t Worry.” Anyway, Zia pipped Frans by a point to win the international jury vote, but finished third in the televote.

Germany: Alex Diehl – “Nur ein Lied”
Germany is in a bad way right now, with two last place finishes in a row. They got 11 points this year, though, which is an 11-point improvement over their 2015 result. It’s hard to say how they would have fared if Alex Diehl won Unser Lied für Stockholm instead of Jamie-Lee Kriewitz. Maybe a simple ballad by an unassuming regular Joe would have stood out more than the pop explosion that detonated at the bottom of the Eurovision table.

France: Internal selection, not applicable.

Spain: Xuso Jones – “Victorious
Xuso Jones hit the Objetivo Eurovisión stage with a grand pop song co-written by Peter Boström. It sounded like Peter heard Cascada’s “Glorious” and thought he could write a better version. Or maybe we just think all songs that end in “-orious” sound the same. Anyway, Xuso finished solidly in second place and well behind Barei, showing that nominative determinism doesn’t work with song titles.

United Kingdom: Second place not revealed.

Romania: Ovidiu Anton – “Moment of Silence”
Poor Ovidiu Anton. He just wants to rock and to let you know that he likes to rock. But fate, or more specifically, Romania not paying its bills to the EBU, cost all of us, every one, the opportunity to bask in the glory in “Moment of Silence.” We hear Romania has their bills squared away now and we hope that rather than doing a selection show, they just give Ovidiu the chance to finally live out his rock and roll fantasy on the Eurovision stage. Assuming he’s not bitter about what happened in 2016. Maybe they should make sure he doesn’t have the guy with the sword in that initial meeting.

The 2016 Eurovision That Almost Was: Semifinal Two

Welcome to the alternate reality Semifinal Two, where goths run amok, a Norwegian pretends he’s Jamaican and Poland is the fan favorite to win Eurovision.

Latvia: Catalepsia – “Damnation

Going into Supernova 2016, the buzz among the die-hard Eurovision fans was all about Justs. Indeed, Justs’ victory in Latvia was the closest to a sure thing this season. It wasn’t entirely a runaway though. While he won the online vote, he finished second in the Latvian televote behind gothic metal band Catalepsia. We could argue Catalepsia’s song “Damnation” may have been a bit too dark for Eurovision, but then again, Ukraine did win the Song Contest this year with “1944.”

Poland: Margaret – “Cool Me Down

Going into Krajowe Eliminacje 2016, the buzz among the die-hard Eurovision fans was all about Margaret and her Rihanna-influenced earworm. However, Margaret’s low energy performance made us wonder if she had bought into her own hype and was saving herself for Sweden. Michał Szpak brought the intensity and compelling stage presence that Margaret did not and booked his ticket to Stockholm instead.

Switzerland: Bella C – “Another World

Imagine you are in a bar at a Swiss chalet after a long day on the slopes. You’re sipping schnapps and dining on fondue, and Bella C is at the lounge’s piano, singing “Another World” and covers of well-known pop standards. You know, like “Empire State of Mind,” so the Americans will drop a few Francs into the tip jar. You will probably quickly down a couple more shots before bailing out on the apres-ski and vote for Rykka to go to Eurovision instead.

Israel: Nofar Salman – “Made of Stars

Hovi Star represented Israel with “Made of Stars,” but he and the Israel delegation re-did the arrangement he used at the national final. Nofar Salman’s original, smoky interpretation was more influenced by Mediterranean pop. Frankly, we liked her version better than Hovi’s version for Israel, but we cannot deny that Hovi’s revamped version was tailor-made for Eurovision.

Belarus: NAPOLI – “My Universe

NAPOLI’s “My Universe” is a pop ballad not entirely dissimilar to cha “Gravity,” Zlata Ognevich’s 2013 entry for Ukraine. At Belarus’ national final, NAPOLI was runner up to Ivan, because once the power of the wolf is unleashed it cannot be denied. Undeterred, NAPOLI then made their way over to Poland’s national final with the same song, where they summarily finished in last place. We applaud their chutzpah, but it’s obvious that they did not go far enough. We hope they come back in 2017 and enter all of the national finals.

Serbia: Internal selection, not applicable.

Ireland: Internal selection, not applicable.

Macedonia: Internal selection, not applicable.

Lithuania: Erica Jennings – “Leading Me Home

Erica Jennings is the lead singer for the band SKAMP, which represented Lithuania at the 2001 Eurovision Song Contest with “You Got Style.” Her 2016 song “Leading Me Home” is a dull, gospel-tinged show tune that seems to have a chorus and a bridge but no verse. Erica finished second with both the juries and the televoters. It’s tough to go up against Donny Montell now that he has established his Eurovision bonafides.

Australia: Internal selection, not applicable.

Slovenia: Raiven – “Črno bel

Slovenians had a choice at EMA 2016 between “Blue and Red” and “Black and White,” and we think that 3,865 of them made the wrong choice. Raiven came close to catching ManuElla, receiving 3,738 votes in the EMA super final. Her atmospheric pop song was haunting, and she certainly cut a striking look with her Morticia Addams at a Bauhaus concert realness. Also: harp solo! Unfortunately for us, Taylor Swift is more popular than Siouxie Sioux.

Bulgaria: Internal selection, not applicable.

Denmark: Anja Nissen – “Never Alone

It comes as no shock that “Never Alone”–which you may recognize by its other name, “Only Teardrops 2.0”–was co-written by Eurovision winner Emmelie de Forest. That Song Contest pedigree probably helped propell Anja to the MGP super final alongside Simone Egeriis and eventual winner Lighthouse X. Thankfully, Denmark decided that one “Only Teardrops” is plenty.

Ukraine: The Hardkiss – “Helpless

Here’s a piece of Eurovision trivia: “1944” barely made it out of its national final. Going into the Ukrainian national selection, the favorite was the Hardkiss’ “Helpless,” a gothic prog ballad. Its striking staging featured singer Yulia Sanina sporting a hairstyle seemingly inspired by Dilophosaurus and festooned with tubes of light that made her look like a central processing unit in the Matrix. If we remember correctly, judges Ruslana and Andriy “Verka Serduchka” Danylko debated the Hardkiss’ performance for three hours. They then allowed the Ukrainian national final to move on to the evening’s fourth song of six. That said, they liked the song well enough to make it the jury’s top choice. Jamala’s “1944” did better with the public, so Jamala and the Hardkiss tied for first place. The tiebreaker went to the public vote, and the rest is Eurovision history.

Norway: Freddy Kalas – “Feel Da Rush”

We have described a few of the songs we’ve featured in this post as being “goth.” Freddy Kalas’ “Feel Da Rush” could be best described as the opposite of goth. It’s a Caribbean-flavored pop jam that is as authentic as Taco Bell. The sight and sound of a lily white Scandinavian bro mimicking a Caribbean accent is almost too ridiculous to be offensive. Almost. If there is ever a remake of Weekend at Bernie’s, then we have found the perfect song for its opening credits.

Georgia: Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitaz – “Sugar and Milk

Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitaz were an internal selection, but Georgia held a selection show to determine their song for Europe. “Midnight Gold” was the overwhelming preference of the Georgian public (and jury member Andy “ESCKAZ” Mikheev), but Eurovision Song Contest 2016 producer Christer Björkman gave his jury vote to “Sugar and Milk.” We’re not ones to question Christer’s taste in music, but we can’t figure out why he thought this noodly 1990s jam band filler was a good fit for the Song Contest. Not to say we don’t like it, but “Midnight Gold” was such a better entry.

Albania: Aslajdon Zaimaj – “Merrmë që sot

“Merrmë që sot” is all over the shop, bouncing from pop ballad to metal song to prog rocker like an over-enthusiastic child in a toy store. It eventually settles into a galloping groove, but by then we were checking our watches. Eneda Tarifa’s “Përrallë” won Festivali i Këngës and despite her song’s fate in Europe, we won’t argue Albania made the wrong choice.

Belgium: Tom Frantzis – “I’m Not Lost

Tom Frantzis’ “I’m Not Lost” is a Coldplay-esque pop rock anthem decked out with an “it’s the journey, not the destination” lyrical theme. It would be perfect for Belgian iPhone ads. Tom made it to Belgium’s super final, but his standard issue rock staging was no match for Laura Tesoro’s fully choreographed funk extravaganza.

The 2016 Eurovision That Almost Was: Semifinal One

To give you an idea of how intense our year has been, we just now noticed that we never did our Eurovision That Almost Was posts for 2016. Yet our scars from Söngvakeppnin are still surprisingly raw!

Finland: Saara Aalto – “No Fear

True story: we didn’t watch Finland’s UMK final live, but caught up on it later in the day. Chris spent the show talking about how every song was a potential winner. Every song except “Sing It Away.” Jen, of course, had been spoiled on the result and was chuckling madly to herself at the fact that Chris wasn’t even considering that “Sing It Away” could win. Saara Aalto’s plain ballad “No Fear” won the public vote, but only finished third with the juries, who inexplicably gave Sandhja’s jazz festival banger top marks. We’re not entirely sure Finland’s prospects would have brightened in Stockholm had they sent “No Fear” instead, but at the very least they probably would have had slicker choreography.

Greece: Internal selection, not applicable.

Moldova: Cristina Pintilie – “Picture of Love

Cristina Pintilie’s old fashioned Eurovision ballad received a fair amount of love from Moldova’s jury: it finished in second place, ahead of eventual winner “Falling Stars.” However, “Picture of Love” ended up in a distant third place after the public mostly voted for Lidia Isac and eventual fourth placer DoReDoS. Cristina’s song is not bad and features some nice orchestral flourishes during the second verse. We like to think that had this won the national final, Moldova still would have used the astronaut in its staging.

Hungary: Gergő Oláh – “Győz a jó

Hungary had possibly its strongest A Dal competition to date, with four credible contenders making the Super Final. No runner-up was revealed after Freddie was declared the winner, but Gergő Oláh finished second in the jury vote that determined the final four. As mentioned in the Favorite Songs post, “Győz a jó” was a slinky, sexy trip-hop track that would have acquited Hungary quite nicely at the Song Contest.

Croatia: Internal selection, not applicable.

Netherlands: Internal selection, not applicable.

Armenia: Internal selection, not applicable.

San Marino: Internal selection, not applicable.

Russia: Internal selection, not applicable.

Czech Republic: Internal selection, not applicable.

Cyprus: Internal selection, not applicable.

Austria: Elly V – “I’ll Be Around (Bounce)”

Just 17, Elly V is a charismatic singer/songwriter who wowed the juries that helped determine the Wer singt für Österreich super final. “I’ll Be Around” is an intriguing dance pop anthem, but Elly V’s performance showed some raw edges that could have frayed on the big Eurovision stage. Often when we say that we haven’t heard the last of an artist on our website, you never hear from them again. However, Austria has been known to reward also-rans in subsequent years: Conchita Wurst, Trackshittaz and this year’s national final winner Zoë all made strong impressions at earlier national finals before making it to the Grand Prix. It’s possible that in Elly V we are looking at another future Austrian representative.

Estonia: Laura – “Supersonic

Laura was a member of Suntribe, which represented Estonia at the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest. She has tried to return the big show as a solo artist a few times since then. “Supersonic” was a solid effort although it didn’t do much for us at the time. Hindsight being 50/50, perhaps Laura, with her experience, would have been a better choice than the more green Jüri Pootsmann. Still, that Trackshittaz/Electro Velvet light-up outfit would have needed to go.

Azerbaijan: Internal selection, not applicable.

Montenegro: Internal selection, not applicable.

Iceland: Alda Dís Arnardóttir – “Now

As mentioned in our review, we were very bitter that “Á ný” was not even considered to represent Iceland at Eurovision this year. What the hell, Iceland? The ultimate choice at Söngvakeppnin was between “Hear Them Calling” and “Now,” and while we were no fans of the eventual winner, we preferred it to this twee ballad sung by a wannabe Disney Princess. Still, Alda had Pétur Örn Guðmundsson as a back-up singer, so it wouldn’t have been all bad if she had won. Eurovision could always use more Pétur Örn.

Bosnia & Herzegovina: Internal selection, not applicable.

Malta: Ira Losco – “Chameleon” / Brooke – “Golden”

Ira Losco won Malta’s national final with “Chameleon,” which we described at the time as “a warmed over mash-up of ‘Invincible’ and ‘Euphoria.’” Fortunately, Ira switched to “Walk On Water.” At the Maltese national selection, Brooke was the clear second place finisher with both the jury and the public. “Golden” is all about how we all can shine, so we don’t think it would have brought anything unique to this year’s Song Contest. Still, with a more interesting song Brooke could be a worthy representative for Malta some day. Hopefully we haven’t cursed her by saying that.

The 2015 Eurovision That Almost Was: The Big Seven

We wrap up our series of second place finishers with the “Big 7,” the countries that have direct tickets to the 2015 final. Part I is here, Part II is here.

Austria. Dawa, “Feel Alive.” Dawa’s style might be described as Tracy Chapman-influenced roots rock. They made the two-act superfinal, but only collected 22% of the public televote; the Makemakes won handily. The group got exposure by doing Wer Singt für Österreich, and it seems they outperformed even their own expectations. Dawa’s visible sense of relief at the end did not sit well with us, especially in the aftermath of Germany’s national final (see below). Still, Dawa has a compelling artistic perspective, and “Feel Alive” is a fantastic song. Had they actually won, we’re sure they would have sucked it up.

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The 2015 Eurovision That Almost Was: Semifinal Two

We continue our look at second placers at this year’s national finals with the countries that make up the second Semifinal in Vienna. They are presented in order of the draw so we may contemplate an alternate Eurovision universe with 1970s-inspired ballads, male-dominated showtunes, fado, reggae, and joik.

Lithuania. Second place song, “The Right Way;” second place performer, Mia. Continuing the format initiated last year, Lithuania chose its song and its artist concurrently. “The Right Way” was a milquetoast ballad that would have struggled to make an impression on the Viennese audience. Meanwhile, Mia was fine, but we think she suffered from the fact that once everyone heard “This Time” as a duet, it was hard to hear it any other way.

Ireland. Kat Mahon, “Anybody Got a Shoulder?” Whoo boy, Ireland dodged a bullet this year. This Dan Fogelberg-esque tune was handled without a whiff of irony and felt completely out of place in this decade. The Irish regional juries in aggregate went for it because it’s lovely and sentimental. Molly Sterling only barely eked out the win thanks to the public televote and the Limerick jury. Jurors of Limerick, you may stay. Galway and Dublin, what gives? Do you still yearn for the sensitivity of the 1970s?
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The 2015 Eurovision That Almost Was: Semifinal One

It’s time for our annual look at the songs that could have contended for the Eurovision Song Contest title. If last year’s retrospective filled us with longing for what might have been, this year’s review gives us the impression that by and large most countries got it right.

Moldova. Valeria Pașa, “I Can Change All My Life.” It’s an unusual year when the jury winner isn’t the actual winner in Moldova. But Valeria’s conventional pageant ballad had very little support from the public, finishing a distant seventh. In contrast, Eduard Romanyuta finished second with the jury and first with the public.

Armenia. Internal selection, not applicable.

Belgium. Internal selection, not applicable.

Netherlands. Internal selection, not applicable.

Finland. Satin Circus, “Crossroads.” Satin Circus’s teenage summer anthem was our choice to come out of the Finnish national selection, and it did well with the juries. Unfortunately, the jury’s opinion only counts for one-tenth of the total at UMK. The public overwhelmingly favored Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät. PKN took 37.4% of the total score. Satin Circus trailed behind with 26.3% and no one else came anywhere close.
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