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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National Final Season in Review 2015: Our Favorite Songs

As we start on our series of posts to wrap up the national final season, we will remember 2015 as a good Eurovision year. It’s a year where most (though not all) national finals made a good pick from the options available, and some (though not all) national finals had several high quality songs to choose from. Here are our favorites from the ones that got left behind.

Austria: Zoe – “Adieu.” In the opening episode of Wer singt für Österrich, Zoe introduced herself to the public with this adorable, retro French chanson. The first song was not eligible for the Contest, it was merely meant to showcase the artist’s style. Zoe’s performance was magnetic, and one of the judges aptly described her as “an Austrian Brigitte Bardot.” “Quel filou,” her would-be Eurovision song, tried to recapture the magic of “Adieu,” but Zoe wasn’t able to deliver on the promise and ultimately landed in 3rd place. Why can’t France send something like this?

 

Austria: Lemo – “So Leicht.” Austria ruled out Lemo on the first show because the judges felt the German lyrics wouldn’t translate well to the rest of Europe. Fair enough, we suppose, but “So Leicht” was nevertheless an elegant piece of singer-songwriter songwriting. The 3-minute version performed at WSFÖ was tighter than the official video linked to below.

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The 2014 Eurovision That Almost Was: The Big Six

It’s time for our final installment of our walk in the Twilight Zone universe of Eurovision second place finishers. Here are the Big Five and Denmark, presented in alphabetical order by country since we don’t yet know the final draw.

Denmark. Rebekka Thornbech, “Your Lies” or Michael Rune feat. Natascha Bessez, “Wanna Be Loved.” Basim was the overwhelming winner of the Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2014, winning the televote and getting top marks from all the jurors. Rebekka Thornbech’s “Your Lies” and Michael Rune and Natascha Bessez’ “Wanna Be Loved” tied for distant second. “Wanna Be Loved” was a cheesy dance track featuring Rune’s epic sax. It’s the kind of club anthem that usually shrivels up and dies on the vine. The country-folk tune “Your Lies” was a bit better, but it lacked the polish and energy of eventual winner “Cliché Love Song.” It’s hard to argue Denmark got it wrong.

France. Joanna, “Ma liberté” or Destan, “Sans toi.” Three acts vied for the opportunity to represent France in Copenhagen. Twin Twin won, and the second place finisher was not revealed. Joanna’s “Ma liberté” is an okay pop ballad that would have struggled to stand out on the night. Destan’s “Sans toi,” meanwhile, sounded like a lost Take That b-side. It was catchy enough, but France would have been better served by a ’10s boy band than a ’90s one.

Germany. Unheilig, “Wir sind alle wie eins.”

Unheilig are a well-known band in Germany. Their last two albums topped the German album charts and each went multi-platinum. Their 2010 release Große Freiheit is the second-most downloaded album in German music history, after Adele’s 21. They also won the 2010 Bundesvision Song Contest, Stefan Raab’s all-Germany version of Eurovision.

Singer Der Graf admitted, “I dreamed of the big stage, of the European flags and of representing my own country.” In fact, Unheilig turned down two previous chances to represent Germany only because they didn’t want to sing in English. It seemed that Der Graf’s dream would come true this year.

Unheilig presented two songs as part of Germany’s convoluted national final. “Als wär’s das erste Mal” was performed first and helped Unheilig advance to the second round. They then performed “Wir sind alle wie eins,” and the German televoters voted it into the final round against Elaiza’s “Is It Right.” Ultimately, Elaiza carried the day, and the Eurovision stage will have to wait for Der Graf’s rich baritone. But we have a sneaking suspicion his chance to represent Germany is coming.

Italy. Internal selection, not applicable.

Spain. Brequette, “Más.” This Thomas G:son power ballad hit all the predictable Eurovision marks and probably would have served Spain well. Brequette’s vocals, while very good, were nothing you don’t see on any given season of the The Voice. Nevertheless, she brought a lot of emotion to her performance at Mira Quien Va a Eurovisión, and a lot of fans were riled up when she wasn’t the final choice. The results showed that Brequette won the jury vote, but Ruth Lorenzo edged Brequette in the televote by 4 percent (31% vs. 27%). That difference resulted in a tie cumulative number of points, and in Spain, the tiebreak went to the public’s choice.

United Kingdom. Internal selection, not applicable.

The 2014 Eurovision That Almost Was: Semifinal Two

We continue our look at a Eurovision Song Contest parallel universe, one in which Norway issues a sequel to “I Feed You My Love,” Ireland issues a sequel to “Rock and Roll Kids,” Greece issues a sequel to “Alcohol is Free,” and Romania issues a sequel to the works of Franz Lehár.

Malta. De Bee, “Pin the Middle.” This song was a little earthy-crunchy, but it had an original sound. It was a distant 2nd place finisher to Firelight but not a bad effort at all.

Israel. Mei Finegold, “Nish’eret iti.”  Mei Finegold was an internal selection, but the public was invited to select from three songs. “Same Heart” received 55% of the public vote. “Nish’eret iti” was also a popular choice, receiving 40% of the public vote. Of the three, this dance track with a repetitive refrain was our least favorite.

Norway. Linnea Dale, “High Hopes.”  “High Hopes,” an ultra-cool electropop number, was Melodi Grand Prix’s followup to Margaret Berger. It’s a great song, and as we’ve already noted in a previous post, one of our favorites from the national final season. But Carl Espen, who also has a great song, prompted a large voting turnout in his home region, and Linnea finished a distant second.

Georgia. Not applicable, internal selection.

Poland. Not applicable, internal selection.

Austria. Not applicable, internal selection.

LithuaniaMia and “Take A Look At Me Now.” Lithuania’s complicated national selection process resulted in two might have beens: a 2nd place singer and a 2nd place song. The penultimate Eurovizijos episode decided the song. The jury favorite was “Take a Look at Me Now.”  Early on, Mia’s version was upbeat and pop-influenced, but that fuzzy dubstep mix grated after a couple minutes. In later stages in the competition, it morphed into a conventional ballad. In the hands of eventual winner Vilija Matačiūnaitė, “Take a Look at Me Now” was a sultry soul ballad with an ’80s cheese-fest sax solo. The public narrowly preferred “Attention,” so it got the nod over the jury’s preference. The final Eurovizijos episode determined the singer. Mia’s interpretation of “Attention” played up the glamour and seduction of the verses, but she couldn’t get the syncopation in the refrain. Mia had a lot of support from jury and fans, but Matačiūnaitė with “Attention”–a song she herself had written–ultimately gained the edge with both.

Finland. Mikko Pohjola, “Sängyn Reunalla.” A class act from start to finish, “Sängyn Reunalla” was similar towhat Pernilla Karlsson did for Finland in 2012, except so much better because Pohjola wasn’t boring. But in 2014’s competitive UMK, both jury and the public went for Softengine’s more international sound.

Ireland. Eoghan Quinn, “The Movie Song.” A sweet singer-songwriter entry from a Louis Walsh protegé and former UK X Factor contestant. The song yearned for a bygone era when emotions were more innocent and we were less cynical. An updated “Rock n’ Roll Kids,” if you will. “Heartbeat” finished first with the Irish public and the jury, but “The Movie Song” is yet another example of a second place finisher that we preferred to the winner.

Belarus. Max Lorens and DiDyuLya, “Now You’re Gone.” “Now You’re Gone” was a dull, Latin-inspired ballad. Max Lorens did as much as anyone could to sell this mediocre material. The Belorussian public bought it; he decisively won the televote. However, the jury preferred TEO, and that resulted in a tie between 1st and 2nd place. The tiebreak was settled by jurors giving paper hearts to their preferred candidate, and given the jury had already voiced a clear preference, it was no surprise how that was going to be settled. Though Max Lorens didn’t get the nod, this year’s result should leave no doubt that he is a great singer who deserves better. Perhaps the jury will make it up to him next year.

Macedonia. Internal selection, not applicable.

Switzerland. Yasmina Hunzinger, “I Still Believe.” Switzerland was just rough this year, full stop. Their second place finisher was a plodding, paint-by-numbers ballad of love and hope, chock full of cliches and insipid sentiment. It wasn’t well sung either. Hunzinger had poor control between chest voice and head voice, and her vocal runs sounded like a cat whose tail had been pulled. We’re no fans of Sebalter, but at least his song doesn’t sound like something we’ve heard a million times before.

Greece. Kostas Martakis, “Kanenas Den Me Stamata.” Dreamy, dreamy Kostas Martakis had to be considered the front runner going into the Greek national final. A well-known celebrity in Greece, he has an unbroken string of platinum and gold studio albums to his credit, as well as appearances on several celebrity reality shows, including Greece’s Dancing with the Stars, where he finished 2nd. His 2014 Eurovision bid, “Kanenas Den Me Stamata,” was written by Elias Kozas, the front man of Koza Mostra, which represented Greece in 2013 with “Alcohol is Free.”  “Kanenas Den Me Stamata” was pumped-up cock rock with loud brass, electric guitar solos, and a stadium-friendly hook. The only way it could have been more manly is if Martakis was saving a woman from a burning building while popping a handful of Cialis. It was a good try, yet all-in-all it seemed like a lot of posturing. Both the jury and the public preferred “Rise Up,” which was just more fun.

Slovenia. Muff, “Let Me Be (Myself).”  Sorry, Muff, there’s only room for one drag queen at Eurovision this year. We know Muff has her share of fans, but, folks, we don’t get it. To us, her vocal was affected and the performance of this supposed self-empowerment anthem felt fake. Tinkara Kovač (deservedly) trounced her in the Superfinal.

Romania. Vaida, “One More Time.” Paula & Ovi were the choice of the Romanian jury, not the public.  In point of fact, Vaida and her accordion-tinged Viennese waltz were the overwhelming choice of the public, receiving 46% of the televote. Paula & Ovi, in 2nd place, received only 13%. However, the jury made absolute certain that Vaida was nowhere near contention, placing her 7th in their ranking. And for that we say to Romanian jury, thank you very much!!!

So, what do we make of all this?  If we put on our omnipotence hat, which of these 2nd place songs would we swap in order to strengthen the 2014 2nd Semi?

In this group, as it turns out, not many. Malta is cute, but assuming Firelight is able to solve its execution issues, it would be unlikely to produce a significant net quality gain. We prefer the runner ups in Norway and Finland, but it’s personal preference–what’s going is good too. And, we are relieved that the jury overturned the public results in Romania and Belarus. Basically, the only one in this group that we think would have been a better choice for Eurovision is Ireland.

National Final Season in Review 2014: Our Favorite Songs

Darlings, can we let you in on a secret?  This has been a tough season for us.  We like a lot of the songs that are going to Copenhagen, but we love very few.  To our dismay, many of the songs that really got us excited were left behind in the national finals.  So much so that this year we feel compelled to do a (rather long) post about our favorites. In some cases these were second place finishers, and others only managed mid table or worse. The songs are, for us, the ones that got away – but we will happily play them on our iPhone in the months and years to come.

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National Final Season Wrap-Up: The Best of the Rest

Rehearsals for the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest kick off tomorrow, but we want to take one last look at the national final season before we start obsessively checking Daniel Gould’s Twitter feed for rehearsal updates.

For this post, we  highlight a handful of our favorite songs that went underappreciated during the national final season. These are not songs represented in Malmo, and frequently, they’re not even the runners-up of some particularly close national final. The songs we list below suited our musical tastes, showed us something we hadn’t seen before, or were otherwise utterly brilliant. In short, they made us happy, which at the most fundamental level is why we follow Eurovision. And we do this blog so we don’t forget.

Switzerland: Los Angeles the Voices, “Wild White Horses – Co-written by Gordon Heuckeroth of De Toppers fame, who left the venerable Dutch band to form Los Angeles the Voices, this song languished along with the hundreds of submissions in the Swiss contest. But its gloriousness cannot, will not, must not be contained.

Estonia: Flank, “Missing Light – Holy cow, this song is terrific: a synth-driven, hard-rocking power-pop anthem. It’s really too bad singer Tõnn Tobreluts couldn’t quite hit the notes during Flank’s performance at Eesti Laul, but even so, we really feel like Estonia missed out by omitting this from the final.

Lithuania: Gerai Gerai and Miss Sheep, “War in the Wardrobe – A post-punk song with early-electronica-inspired keyboards, “War in the Wardrobe” had a more Estonian vibe than most Estonian entries this year. We are still shaking our heads over Lithuania picking “Something” instead.

Hungary: Kállay Saunders András, “I Love My Baby – This delightful Motown doo-wop number was the favorite of the Hungarian jury. From the vocals to the a cappella breakdown to the staging, it fills us with joy.

Sweden: Martin Rolinski, “In and Out of Love – This is a conventional Thomas G:son dance song, but it had an innovative presentation with dancers in a box splashing paint on the boxes. Sadly, it went down in the Andra Chanson round.

Estonia: Winny Puhh, “Meiecundimees üks Korsakov läks eile Lätti – When the histories are written, Estonia’s Winny Puhh will go down as one of the most madcap entries to ever grace any Eurovision-related stage. In the semi-final they did the entire performance in weird costumes that looked like team mascots from the NCAA S&M tournament. Then in the national final, the drummers rotated at a 90 degree angle to the stage, the backing guitarists hung upside down from the ceiling, and everyone had unsettling wolfman facial hair. The “song,” if you can call it that, is more like rhythmic screaming with musical accompaniment. It may not be much of a song, but it is damned memorable.

Two sides of Winny Puhh

RomaniaNarcis Iustin Ianău, “Seven – To look at Ianău unprepared for what’s to follow, you would except some type of Swedish-pop inspired Bieber type.  And then “Seven” begins, and what you’re presented with is Generation Y’s answer to Jimmy Somerville. He shows exquisite control of his instrument. Admittedly, he’s singing in barely recognizable English, but we didn’t care because we love him. Everyone else in Romania not so much: “Seven” received nil points from the jury and finished in eighth place.

Latvia: PeR, Sad Trumpet – Eurovision fans tuning in for the second Semi-final will see PeR in an upbeat number, but we also enjoyed their other entry in Eurodziema, an overly melodramatic piece that has Ralfs Eilands on vocal, Edmunds Rasmanis on rhythmic hand rubbing and beatboxing and, inexplicably, no one on trumpet. Such a sad trumpet.

Those were our favorites.  What were yours?

The Eurovision That Almost Was: Semifinal Two

We continue our look at a Eurovision Song Contest Fringe universe, one in which Bulgarian copyright law is not used to avoid performing a hated song and in which the song from Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix that was a number one smash actually goes to Malmö.

Latvia. Samanta Tīna, “I Need A Hero.” The scoring system for Dziesma is a bit confusing, but once you realize that the songs the jury and the televoters liked the most were given the rank of 1 and the ones they liked the least were ranked 12, it starts to make sense. There was much agreement between the jury and public in the Super Final: PeR’s “Here We Go” was ranked first by both and Samantha Tīna was ranked second. We were pulling for PeR, because Tīna’s dreary, generic ballad would have passed unmemorably by during the second Semi.

San Marino. Internal selection, not applicable.

FYR Macedonia. Esma & Lozano, “Imperija.” Although Esma & Lozano and their song were internal selections, the original pick to represent Macedonia was “Imperija”. However this song was rejected after its public release due to the overwhelming negative reaction to it. And by rejected, we mean, Macedonia has tried to scrub the song from existence. Even now, it’s really difficult to find “Imperija” online, so enjoy the link we have now, because it will probably get pulled soon.

Azerbaijan. Unknown, 2nd place not disclosed.

Finland. Mikael Saari, “We Should Be Through.” Krista Siegfrids was the clear winner of the Finnish televote. However, she finished in a three-way tie for first among the jury votes, along with Mikael Saari and Great Wide North. Saari came in second in the televote, giving him the runner-up spot. (Great Wide North finished fourth with 12 percent of the public votes.) As grating as Siegfrids’ performance is, at least it has a pulse, unlike Saari’s dirge ballad.

Malta. Kevin Borg, “Needing You.” Borg finished in first place with Malta’s televoters, but in second with the jury. Gianluca Bezzina’s large point tally from the jury and second place finish with televoters booked his ticket to Malmö. And, for the third time this Semi, we are saved from a dreary ballad; Borg’s is so bland you’ll forget about it as you’re listening to it.

Bulgaria. Elitsa Todorova and Stoyan Yankoulov, “Kismet.” Elitsa and Stoyan were internally selected, but Bulgaria held a selection show to choose the song they would perform at Eurovision. As we detail in our post about Bulgaria, officially the song was changed due to copyright issues, but unofficially, the switch may have had more to do with Elitsa’s rumored dissatisfaction with the song selection.

Iceland. Unnur Eggertsdóttir, “Ég Syng!” Iceland didn’t reveal any points totals during the 2013 Söngvakeppnin but did pick “Ég á Líf” and “Ég Syng!” for its 2-song Super Final. Fortunately, “Ég á Líf” finished first, which meant we didn’t have to suffer through “Ég Syng!” more than we had to. The only way this song would be more annoying is if it were a Junior Eurovision Entry.

Greece. Alex Leon featuring Giorgina, “Angel.” It wasn’t particularly close in Greece this year: Koza Mostra and Agathonas Iakovidis took the Eurovision Song Contest slot handily. Leon and Giorgina finished second by virtue of a strong jury showing, but they didn’t do well enough with the public vote to even come close to challenging Koza Mostra. “Angel” is a pretty bad-ass ethnic ballad with a diva performance, staged in the Greek final with lots of shirtless dancers. Even so, we’re pleased Greece sent “Alcohol Is Free” (Kieran’s version: “Abbawon Ifree”) to Malmö.

Israel. Ron Weinreich, “Love is One.” In this year’s Kdam, Moran Mazor tied for first in the jury vote with paralyzed-soldier-turned-singer Ron Weinreich. Weinreich, however, finished fifth in the televote, which killed his chances of winning. (Interestingly, the song that finished first in the televote, Shany Zamir’s “Forever,” received zero points from the jury.) “Love Is One” is decent enough, if not particularly memorable in and of itself. Weinreich flavors it with a dash or three of hair metal operatic vocal theatrics. Plus there’s a keytar. At least we finally have the answer to that age-old entertainment question: what do people respond to more, ex-soldiers in wheelchairs or side boob?

Armenia. Unknown, 2nd place not disclosed.

Hungary. András Kállay-Saunders, “My Baby.” The story of A Dal this year is the story of what the jury wanted versus what the public wanted. In A Dal’s second Semifinal, ByeAlex’s “Kedvesem” tied for fourth place in the jury vote with Gergő Baricz’s “Húz.” The jury picked “Kedvesem” to go through. In the Final, the jury voted for four of the eight songs to be brought to the public vote. Kállay-Saunders’ doo-wop earworm “My Baby” had the highest jury total of the four songs, with 46 points from the five judges. “Kedvesem” sneaked the final four with just 16 points (but consider that the four songs that didn’t make it scored a total of 12 points between them). The public liked ByeAlex more and he won A Dal, although the second place finisher in the televote was never revealed. Either way we were happy; “Kedvesem” and “My Baby” were two of our favorite songs from the entire national selection season.

Norway. Adelén, “Bombo.” Margaret Berger’s victory in the Melodi Grand Prix was decisive: she finished first in both the jury and the televote, and by wide margins. Adelén was a distant second. Then something funny happened: “Bombo” became a hit in Norway, reaching number one during its nine-week stay on the charts. “I Feed You My Love,” on the other hand, topped out at number four and only lasted three weeks on the charts. Buyer’s remorse in Norway? We’ll have to see. Frankly, we find “Bombo” shrill and annoying, so we’re fine with the MGP result.

Albania. Anjeza Shahini, “Love.” Adrian Lulgjuraj & Bledar Sejko’s “Identitet” was the clear winner of Festivali i Këngës with 72 points. Shahini finished second with a respectable 62 points. “Love” smacks of a late 1970s Broadway musical number, when the female lead in the show has discovered she really is in love with the leading man and has to belt out her feelings while people in bell bottoms do an interpretive ballet down the streets of Tirana. Maybe that’s just us.

Georgia. Internal selection, not applicable.

Switzerland. Carrousel, “J’avais rendezvous.” Takasa (the artist known as Salvation Army, or Heilsarmee if you’re Swiss) was the overwhelming public favorite in the Swiss National Final, taking 37.54 percent of the televote. The aggressively twee tune from Carrousel could only muster 17.26 percent of the vote when it finished second place.

Romania. Electric Fence, “Emilia.” Electric Fence just missed being Romania’s Eurovision representative. They lost by one point to Cezar. While Electric Fence was the jury’s favorite, it could only muster fourth place in the televote. Cezar won the televote, and that was enough for him to overcome finishing third in the jury vote. As mentioned in our recap of the Romanian final, this is the second year in a row that Electric Fence have placed second. They are becoming the Magni Ásgeirsson of Romania.