Highlights from 2019

It’s time once again for us to look back at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest to pick out the most delectable moments of the year.

Eurovision Lemurs Seal of Approval

Ever since we started compiling our highlights, we’ve always had a category for Legitimately Good Song. We’ve also always sort of regretted calling it that because Eurovision has a ton of legitimately good songs, and what we really wanted to do is highlight something special.

So we’ve changed the category to the Eurovision Lemurs Seal of Approval, which we will affix to the song that truly captured our hearts. We came up with the idea for a Seal of Approval in 2017 when we reviewed “Occidentali’s Karma,” then never used it again. This year seemed like a good time to bring it back.

The main rule is that it has to be a song that the entire Lemurs household agrees is awesome. So without further ado…

For Our Consideration

Azerbaijan: Chingiz – “Truth”
Czech Republic: Lake Malawi – “Friend of a Friend”
Greece: Katerine Duska – “Better Love”
Italy: Mahmood – “Soldi”
Malta: Michela Pace – “Chameleon”
The Netherlands: Duncan Laurence – “Arcade”

Our Pick: Italy.

Mahmood - Soldi (Screenshot by Eurovision Lemurs)
“Soldi” is incorporates hip hop influences into a contemporary Italian pop sound. It gives us to something to clap along with, but it makes us work for it: it’s tempting to clap one beat too early. The chorus is underpinned with a simple, but sexy bassline. And Mahmood infuses it with star power and an appropriate touch of melancholy. It’s a stunning song.

By the way, we don’t want to take anything away from “Arcade,” which we think is another great achievement in songwriting and performance. This year’s Song Contest has seen arguably the best one-two finishers in its long history, and we can’t wait to see how these two songs help push next year’s artists forward.

Biggest Misfire

For Our Consideration

Germany: S!sters – “Sister”
Greece: Katerine Duska – “Better Love”
Romania: Ester Peony – “On A Sunday”
United Kingdom: Michael Rice – “Bigger Than Us”

Our Pick: Greece.

Katarine Duska - Better Love (Screenshot by Eurovision Lemurs)

We adore “Better Love,” and we thought it had top 10 finish written all over it. But it was hard to ignore the whole package Greece presented. Katerine was decked out in a baroque costume that for intents and purposes confined her. She never looked at the cameras but instead seemed to be staring at something interesting happening just off to the side. And in the Grand Final, her vocal gave out. Such a shame because we know we will be cranking this one a lot over the summer.

Least Self-Aware

Our Pick: None.

In theory, we should be giving this award to Serhat and San Marino. Yet it’s hard for us to argue that they are not aware of what they are doing. San Marino is using Serhat to cultivate for itself a cult following among the Eurovision die hards. Serhat is using San Marino to establish an international singing career that otherwise might never have been. And they comfortably qualified for the Grand Prix Final and finished 10th in the televote. Who are we to deem that they don’t know what they’re doing? That said…

Campiest Performance

For Our Consideration

Australia: Kate Miller-Heidke – “Zero Gravity”
Croatia: Roko – “The Dream”
Iceland: Hatari – “Hatrið Mun Sigra”
Norway: KEiiNO – “Spirit In The Sky”
San Marino: Serhat – “Say Na Na Na”

Our Pick: San Marino.

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

The way Serhat rasps, “We can take it slowly” when he sings “Say Na Na Na” is the most cringingly funny thing we saw at Eurovision this year. It brought the house down at our party.

Biggest Diva Performance

For Our Consideration

Albania: Jonida Maliqi – “Ktheju tokës”
Australia: Kate Miller-Heidke – “Zero Gravity”
Cyprus: Tamta – “Replay”
North Macedonia: Tamara Todevska – “Proud”
Poland: Tulia – “Pali się (Fire of Love)”
Serbia: Nevena Božović – “Kruna”

Our Pick: North Macedonia.

Tamara Todevska - Proud (Screenshot by Eurovision Lemurs)

Tamara Todevska gave a bravura performance of “Proud.” She crafted the story she wanted to tell beautifully, drawing viewers in and holding their attention through the very last note. There is a damned good reason why she was the actual winner of the actual jury vote.

Eurovision 2019 Superlatives

It has been an amazing year for Eurovision and we’re kind of sad to see it come to an end for another year. Thankfully, the EBU had some jury errors to correct to keep the magic going a little longer.

As always, we like to help ease everyone’s post-Eurovision depression with our own awards to each and every finalist. Maybe this is just the fillip the United Kingdom needs to stop simultaneously feeling sorry for itself and thinking the world revolves around it!

Best Apple iPod Ad: Malta
Michela Pace – “Chameleon”

Best Attempt to Bring Back Gold Accessories: Albania
Jonida Maliqi – “Ktheju tokës”

Best Friend of a Friend of a Friend of a Friend of a Friend of a Friend:
Czech Republic

Lake Malawi – “Friend of a Friend”

Best Come Hither: Czech Republic
Lake Malawi – “Friend of a Friend”

Best Audition to Become Latisse Spokespeople: Germany
S!sters – “Sister”

Best Number from Anchorman! The Musical: Russia
Sergey Lazarev – “Scream”

Most Surprising Tribute to Tears for Fears’ Songs From the Big Chair: Denmark
Leonora – “Love Is Forever”

Most Essential Addition to Every National Broadcaster’s Classic Eurovision Camp Clip Package: San Marino
Serhat – “Say Na Na Na”

Best Way to Take Pride In Your Country’s New Name: North Macedonia
Tamara Todevska – “Proud”

Winner of the Jury Vote. Actual *WINNER* of the Actual Jury Vote:
North Macedonia
Tamara Todevska – “Proud”

Best Excuse to Quit Your Job in D.C. and Move to Sweden: Sweden
John Lundvik – “Too Late For Love”

Most Stubborn Refusal to Acknowledge the Cameras: Slovenia
Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl – “Sebi”

Best Madonna Performance: Cyprus
Tamta – “Replay”

Best Internal Monologue While Playing Atari’s E.T. the Extraterrestrial:
The Netherlands

Duncan Laurence – “Arcade”

Ouch!

Best Party Like It’s 1799: Greece
Katerine Duska – “Better Love”

Best Performance by Sacha Baron Cohen as Freddie Mercury: Israel
Kobi Marimi – “Home”

Best Tutorial on How to Find Your Spirit Animal: Norway
KEiiNO – “Spirit In The Sky”

Most Misguided Assumption That People Somehow Vote Against You at Eurovision: United Kingdom
Michael Rice – “Bigger Than Us”

The Krista Siegfrids Award for Greatest Paragon of Restraint and Subtlety:
Iceland

Hatari – “Hatrið Mun Sigra”

Best Entry Point Into the Wonderful, Mysterious World of BDSM (Because Eurovision Is a Family Show): Iceland
Hatari – “Hatrið Mun Sigra”

Most In Need of a Word to Rhyme with “This”: Estonia
Victor Crone – “Storm”

Most Ironic Song Title Given How It Finished: Belarus
Zena – “Like It”

Best Tribute to Elon Musk’s Twitter Timeline: Azerbaijan
Chingiz – “Truth”

Best Song by the Lovechild of Conchita Wurst and Krystle Carrington: France
Bilal Hassani – “Roi”

Best Bassline Ever at Eurovision: Italy
Mahmood – “Soldi”

Best Calling of Corners: Serbia
Nevena Božović – “Kruna”

Best Representation of the Plot to Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights: Switzerland
Luca Hänni – “She Got Me”

Best Use of Opera to Subdue Dementors: Australia
Kate Miller-Heidke – “Zero Gravity”

Most Puzzling Puppet Deployment Since Cosmos: Spain
Miki – “La Venda”

Special Bonus Award
Kseniya Simonova award for best use of Kseniya Simonova to distract you from a mediocre song: Moldova
Anna Odobescu – “Stay”

Most likely to get there, popular: The Netherlands, at long last!

Worth the wait!

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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Eurovision 2018 Superlatives

The last bit of confetti has fallen, the artists have gone home and all those stage props have been cast aside like a metaphor for post-Eurovision depression.

What better time for us to give out awards to all of this year’s finalists to acknowledge their hard work? The envelopes, please!

Most Contemporary Coffin Design: Ukraine
Melovin – “Under the Ladder”

Best Casting for a Flashback Scene in a Romantic Comedy Starring Rachel Weisz and Jeremy Sisto: Spain
Amaia & Alfred – “Tu canción”

Second Worst Interruption: Slovenia
Lea Sirk – “Hvala, ne!”

Best Musical Representation of the Ending of “Titanic”: Lithuania
Ieva Zasimauskaitė – “When We’re Old”

Winner of the Jury Vote. Actual *WINNER* of the Actual Jury Vote: Austria
Cesár Sampson – “Nobody But You”

Wahnsinn
Photo by: Thomas Hanses (Eurovision.tv)

The Aliona Moon Award for Best Use of a Projection Dress to Distract You From a Mediocre Song: Estonia
Elina Nechayeva – “La forza”

Best Lynda.com Tutorial: Norway
Alexander Rybak – “That’s How You Write a Song”

Best Requiem, Brian Eno Edition: Portugal
Cláudia Pascoal – “O Jardim”

Queen of All Social Media and Conquerer of Jackasses: United Kingdom
SuRie – “Storm”

Best Use of a Kvinnaböske: Serbia
Sanja Ilić and Balkanika – “Nova deca”

Best Requiem, Ed Sheeran Edition: Germany
Michael Schulte – “You Let Me Walk Alone”

Song That Best Represents the Yearning American Gen Xers Feel When Driving By an Abandoned Shopping Center: Albania
Eugent Bushpepa – “Mall”

Mall
All politics is local
Photo by: Joanne S. Lawton (The Business Journals)

The Annual Award for the Most Successful Theft of France’s Thunder: Italy, as usual
Madame Monsieur – “Mercy”

Most Effective Combination of Choreography, Backpacks, and Painkillers: Czech Republic
Mikolas Josef – “Lie to Me”

Best Viking Invasion of Europe Ever: Denmark
Rasmussen – “Higher Ground”

Most Contemporary Menorah Design: Australia
Jessica Mauboy – “We Got Love”

We know that it has 10 branches. Work with us, people.
Photo by: Thomas Hanses (Eurovision.tv)

The Other Svetlana Loboda Award for “More Is More” Staging: Finland
Saara Aalto – “Monsters”

Most Common Framework: Bulgaria
Equinox – “Bones”

Best “Noises Off” Revival: Moldova
DoReDos – “My Lucky Day”

The “Screw You, Guys, I’m Going Home” Award: Sweden
Benjamin Ingrosso – “Dance You Off”

Best Requiem, Pantera Edition: Hungary
AWS – “Viszlát nyár”

Best Response to the Latest Pokémon GO Update – Israel
Netta Barzilai – “Toy”

Song We Most Want to Hear Performed by Jim Beavers and Ilya Toshinsky at the Bluebird: Netherlands
Waylon – “Outlaw in ‘Em”

Best Soundtrack for Richard Curtis’ Next Film: Ireland
Ryan O’Shaughnessy – “Together”

Most In Need of Whiplash Treatment: Cyprus
Eleni Foureira – “Fuego”

Best Use of Seemingly Every Word In Every Language: Italy
Ermal Meta & Fabrizzio Moro – “Non mi avete fatto niente”

Special Bonus Award
Best Way to Order a Banh Mi: Armenia
Sevak – “Qami” … “Banh mi…. Banh miiiiiiiiii!”

Most likely to get there, popular: Israel

Photo by: Thomas Hanses (Eurovision.tv)

Things We Learned By Reading the Bios of the 2018 Eurovision Participants

When we write our song reviews, we do research to get background into the songs and the artists performing them. But the official bios on the Eurovision site are our chance to see what the artists have to say about themselves in their own words. Or their publicists’ words.  Of course, in the past many artists have lacked self-awareness or humility. Mika Newton’s bio, in which she says “she got acquainted with the such legendary producers as … Randy Jackson,” inspired us to start writing “Things We Learned by Reading the Bios” posts so we could document such unintentional hilarity.

This year, the main thing we have learned is that the artists bios are really dull. Almost every bio can be summed up thusly: the artists are all child prodigies who attended Berklee College of Music in Boston and/or Royal Academy of Music in London and got a lot of streams on Spotify and/or views on YouTube before appearing on X Factor and/or The Voice and/or Pop Idol, then doing a musical and/or winning Dancing With the Stars. Also, their songs are about how love can transform the world.

So it is with a great deal of excitement and relief that we point you to Benjamin Ingrosso’s bio. It is a tour de force. It says so much and yet so little at the same time. His bio claims he “has turned many a head with his contemporary twist of polished pop tones and soulful performance bravado.” He brags that he is “set to consistently channel a customized stamp that falls far for [sic] the stereotypical world of Swedish pop music,” then in the very next paragraph talks about writing songs for Oscar Zia and Molly Pettersson Hammar.

He goes on to say, “Having a lit spark over in Scandinavia with his breakthrough last year, his undeniable pop sensibility and genuine musicality spread like wildfire through the rest of Europe.” “As the heat intensifies towards the US,” his bio boldly claims, “Benjamin Ingrosso is the one to watch in 2018.”

Then there’s this gem, “The years ahead points to a well-oiled peak.” First of all, years point, not years points. Grammatical error. Also, years don’t actually point. That’s not something years do. Syntax error. Also, why would you oil a peak? Why does a peak need to oiled, let alone be well-oiled?

If you’re looking for something less gushy and a bit more pretentious, let’s head over to France. Madame Monsieur start their bio, “Since the dawn of time, the old saying is that two is better than one. In some cases, it rings as true to the ears as it does to the eyes.” Let us repeat: they start their bio with the phrase “Since the dawn of time.” We like Madame Monsieur, but we can’t help but roll our eyes when we read stuff like, “Jean-Karl and Emilie’s fortuitous meeting with producer Guillaume Silvestri came at the end of a cycle of doubt, as if the planets had aligned and delivered them the way forward.”

By the way, they inform us their second single “Comme une reine” “serves as a resounding warning for the self-esteem against tyranny.” Right. Maybe it makes more sense in French.

Then there’s Elina Nechayeva (Estonia). “She is a big fan of all the classic Disney Princess cartoons and has a love for Japanese Anime” because of course she does. She dreamed of being an astronaut when she was a kid and “it is this same drive that inspired ‘La Forza.'” Not sure how much drive you need to dream of being an astronaut compared to actually becoming an astronaut, but sure let’s run with it.

Not surprisingly, given her genre, Elina “enjoys the clear structure of Mozart’s music and the passion and rich soul of Tchaikovsky. This shows also the two sides of her vivid personality – playful, yet formidable.” Maybe if “La Forza” was a bit more like Mozart’s “Queen of the Night” aria and less like “Sognu” we’d be more excited. Also, don’t mess with us in a pretension battle. We’re older and we’ve got layers.

Some other fun items we unearthed:

The Humans (Romania) end their bio with this: “The Humans project is not just about entertainment, but emotion translated in music through original compositions and remarkable remakes of the most famous rock songs.” That’s a bold claim, but are any of their remakes as remarkable as Simple Minds turning “Love Will Tear Us Apart” into a dance song? We. Think. Not.

Melovin (Ukraine) came up with his name “from a combination of the holiday Halloween and the last name of the British fashion designer Alexander McQueen.” That’s a bit of a stretch, but at least we’ve learned how to pronounce his name. Also, he is passionate about “music, perfumery and chemistry.” That’s pretty awesome, actually. Hopefully this means he plans to use smellitizer technology at his concerts.

Waylon (Netherlands) says, “‘Outlaw In ‘Em’ is an ode to his own authenticity, as well as to his many heroes who dared to be different.” This is coming from someone who named himself after a more famous outlaw country singer.

Saara Aalto (Finland) “was the most and second-most Googled person in Finland in 2016 and 2017 respectively.” Yet another time she found herself in second place.

National Final Season in Review 2017: Our Favorite WTF Moments

Look, Eurovision is weird. A song sung by a guy performing with a dancer in a gorilla costume was the odds leader for most of the season. So an act really has to be special to get us to look at each other and mutter, “WTF?”​ Here is this year’s crop:

Sweden: Our complicated relationship with Benjamin Ingrosso

Benjamin Ingrosso is a child star who, at age 19, is trying to make the jump to more grown-up fare. And in many ways, “Good Lovin” worked. It sounds like something Justin Timberlake would have churned out in his early solo career. And seeing as we enjoy the song stylings of Justin Timberlake, “Good Lovin” has been in high rotation as we manage our post-Eurovision depression.

And Benjamin Ingrosso is an engaging performer. He was good on camera in a Mark-Paul Gosselaar sort of way, and that tooth gap was endearing. We like him.

But so much of his Melodifestivalen performance was uncomfortable. There was that J. Crew shopping spree. Since when is a lavender jumper and charcoal gray slacks a good pop star look? Then there was that choreography. The pelvic thrust with one hand in his pants pocket when he dances? Cringe.

And let’s not overlook the lyrics. Singing “He’s touching your body like I used to do”? Eeeeeeeewwwwwwww. What 19 year old thinks like that?

And we know this is superficial, but we couldn’t help but be distracted by just how hairy his arms are. Chris has got really hairy arms, and even he was uncomfortable by how hairy Benjamin Ingrosso’s arms are. Bigfoot would look at his arms and say, “Boy, that kid is hirsute.”

Still, good song. But, ugh, complicated.

Slovenia: Tim Kores – “Open Fire”

It’s hard to explain what camp is, but we know it when we see it. “Open Fire” is the EMA equivalent of Battlefield Earth: lots of lame visuals cribbed from more successful sources, and also bad contact lenses. When Kores “throws” a “ball of fire” to “set the drumkit on fire,” any ember of credibility is doused. We watch this one far more often than we really should. It is mesmerizing in its awfulness.

Belarus: Lermont x Julic – “Heartbeat

Is Lermont x Julic a mathematical equation? We were told there would be no math. But no problem, we got this. Here is a direct proof:

Axiom 1: Lermont x Julic = uncontrollable chortling.
Axiom 2: Lermont x Julic + back-up performers >~ Lermont x Julic.
Theorem: Lermont x Julic = 0.

Sweden: De Vet Du – “Road Trip

Epic and hilarious. De Vet Du are a comedy music group who have mastered the art of lacking self-awareness in a totally self-aware way. They also recognize that you consume the most fast food music when you’re in your car.

Estonia: Close to Infinity feat Ian Karell – “Sounds Like Home

Ever wondered why Beatles riffs haven’t been sampled by more hip hop acts? “Sounds Like Home” explains why.

Belarus: Nikita Hodas – “Voices In My Head

At first, Nikita comes off as Sam Smith covering “Time of Your Life” with a pitchy falsetto. He performs while holding a book to show that he feels the feels. Then he speak-sings his life story and it all gets unbearably twee. If Dear Evan Hansen ever makes it to Eastern Europe, we have found the perfect lead.

FinlandKnucklebone Oscar and the Shangri-la Rubies – “Caveman

Imagine if Jack Black was cast as Hyde in That ’70s Show. Imagine Jackie and Donna as stiff back-up singers. Imagine if there was a coherent song to accompany whatever this was supposed to be. When Oscar broke his guitar at the end, he was speaking for all of us.

Sweden: All the F-bombs

There was a lot of cussing at Melodifestivalen this year. Excuse me, Melodi-f’n-festivalen, to quote host Clara Hall. Between the first cut of “I Can’t Go On” to Lisa Ajax’s utterly embarrassing “I Don’t Give A,” Sweden went out of its way this year to make us reconsider watching Melodifestivalen with our eight-year-old.

Slovenia: EMA’s production value

This year’s EMA felt like a remedial A/V club project. The crowd noise was frequently piped in. The director kept using a strange medium shot that placed each singer in the lower half of the screen. (Hey director man, ever heard of the rule of thirds?) Then there was the lengthy filler content where the contestants talk about how much they like each other. They try, oh how they try.

Lithuania. Gytis “Lolita Zero” Ivanauskas – “Get Frighten”

At first glance, Lolita Zero looks like a busted queen. But when you look past the inflatable devil horns, you realize that she’s actually quite visionary. Who else has thought of combining Urban Cowboy with Gallagher’s Sledge-o-matic? No one, that’s who. What really caught our attention was the fact that Gytis rose to prominence with his lauded performance in Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Talk about putting the “rascal” in Raskolnikov!

National Final Season in Review 2017: Our Favorite Songs

The summer doldrums are in full swing. It’s the perfect time for us to go through our notes from the national final season, dust off those chestnuts that didn’t make it to the Eurovision Song Contest, and speculate about which of these artists will make it to the big show two or three years from now.

Finland: Lauri Yrjölä – “Helppo elämä

One part Måns Zelmerlöw, one part Aminata, all parts awesome. Bonus points to Lauri for keeping it in Finnish. Sexy, sexy Finnish. Fifty lashes with a wet noodle to Finland for giving him a paltry 8th place finish.

FinlandMy First Band – “Paradise

Do you like Maroon 5 but wished that Adam Levine dressed like Michael Jackson and took backdrop inspiration from a 1980s Vegas strip club? My First Band have got you covered. “Paradise” is a relentlessly upbeat and catchy bit of pop radio fodder (with slightly skeezy lyrics), but it’s so easy to sing along with, we don’t mind one bit. They finished 4th.

Estonia: Ariadne – “Feel Me Now”

Ariadne is adorable, but she was a bit stiff as a performer. Ugh, who are we kidding, she was uncomfortably stiff. “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board” was invented so that one day we could use it to explain just how stiff she was up on that Eesti Laul stage. But man oh man, was her song fab. “Feel Me Now” is the type of song that makes an Eesti Laul fan out of an aspiring Eurovision diehard. She finished 6th overall, but with a world of promise.

Hungary: Adam Szabo – “Together

Adam Szabo has got a great voice and this was a good song with a good staging. But year after year, Szabo chokes on his live performance. This year’s A Dal semifinal performance was pitchy, and once again he struggled to connect on camera. We hope he’ll figure out how to present the whole package some day.

Hungary: Roma Soul – “Nyitva a ház

Oláh Gergő and company were perhaps a bit unfortunate to come up against Joci Pápai this year. That said, we enjoyed the energy of this Roma-inspired number. It does have the whiff of summer festivals, but it is still a lot of fun. Between losing Adam Szabo and Roma Soul, that second A Dal semifinal was a rough one for us.

Latvia: Lauris Valters – “Magic years”

This is a joyful song in the vein of “Kedvesem” and some of the recent great Maltese entries and Jen will accept no criticism of it. Sadly, Valters was eliminated in the Supernova semifinal.

Sweden: Mariette – “A Million Years

“A Million Years” takes Ira Losco’s “Walk On Water” and just does it better. In Sweden, however, improved Ira Losco is only good enough for a 4th place finish. The staging, which featured dancers on bungee cords and slo-mo camera tricks, was interesting and effective. Of course, if you’re reading this blog in the United States, you’re going to have to imagine all the cool staging because you’re stuck listening to the audio track. God, does international copyright and exclusive licensing need to be rethought in Eurovision’s internet age. (See also: the Eurovision Song Contest’s YouTube channel.)

Sweden: Jasmine Kara – “Gravity

Generally we trust the Swedes to get it right, but we have no idea why this Gaga-esque pop tune got left behind in the third heat of Melodifestivalen. Jasmine’s vocal may not be perfect and her energy may be a little unfocused, but “Gravity” was a fun song with some nifty visual effects.

Slovenia: Nuška Drašček – “Flower In the Snow”

You need to get to the 0:50 mark and don’t get too hung up on Nuška’s weird crow earrings or her initially wobbly vibrato. When it hits its stride, “Flower In the Snow” is a jazzy power ballad with sophisticated chording. And Nuška sells it within an inch of her life. She finished 4th overall, but the jury liked her, so that’s something.

Slovenia: Raiven – “Zažarim

“Zažarim” stood out to us not because the song is anything special, but because her staging was interesting. Raiven wore a custom-made body suit with mirror pieces on it, When the stage lights shone on her, Raiven became a disco ball. It evoked fond memories of Diahann Carroll in the Star Wars Christmas Special. Raiven finished 3rd.

Portugal: Celina da Piedade – “Primavera”

This sweet and gentle folk tune is the perfect song for a national final: Enjoyable in its element. You are secretly happy it doesn’t win because you want to keep it your little secret. Celina finished 3rd.

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.

Eurovision 2017 Superlatives

It’s time once again for Eurovision Lemurs to bestow honors on all of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final contestants. Everyone is a winner tonight, to the chagrin of the Spanish voting public.

  • Winner of two tickets to the gun show: Israel (Imri – “I Feel Alive“)
  • The Johanna “And then there’s a dolphin” award: Poland (Kasia Moś – “Flashlight“)
  • Best mode of transportation to a steampunk winter wonderland in the clouds: Belarus (NAVI – “Historyja majho žyccia“)
  • Most effective self-censorship: Austria (Nathan Trent – “Running On Air“)

  • Handiest jive or jiviest hands: Armenia (Artsvik – “Fly With Me”)
  • Best family bonding exercise: Netherlands (OG3NE – “Light and Shadow“)
  • Best revival of the Running Man: Moldova (SunStroke Project – “Hey Mamma“)
  • Best proof that rap can work at Eurovision: Hungary (Joci Pápai – “Origo“)
  • Best fusion of human evolution and chakras: Italy (Francesco Gabbani – “Occidentali’s Karma“)
  • The Anja Nissen Award for the artist we’d most like to see return to Eurovision with a better song: Denmark (Anja Nissen – “Where I Am“)
  • Best throwback to when it was just a Song Contest: Portugal (Salvador Sobral – “Amar pelos dois“)
  • Best musical representation of the plot to Equus: Azerbaijan (DiHaj – “Skeletons“)
  • The Flygande Jacob award for two great tastes that shouldn’t taste great together but do: Croatia (Jacques Houdek – “My Friend“)
  • The Maria Yaremchuck award for best use of an exercise toy for a caged rodent: Australia (Isaiah – “Don’t Come Easy”)

  • Best homage to Jedward’s “Waterline”: Greece (Demy – “This Is Love“)
  • Best audition to be a Margaritaville house band: Spain (Manel Navarro – “Do It For Your Lover“)
  • Best outfit choices for Kylo Ren and Hoban Washburne when they want to hit the club: Norway (JOWST feat. Aleksander Walmann – “Grab the Moment“)
  • Best audition for the female lead in William and Kate: The Musical!: United Kingdom (Lucie Jones – “Never Give Up On You“)
  • Most successful sobriety test: Cyprus (Hovig – “Gravity“)
  • Best portrayal of the hope, the anticipation and then the ultimate disappointment of impotence (right down to the awkward kiss at the end): Romania (Ilinca featuring Alex Florea – “Yodel It!“)
  • Best song in the 21st slot of the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest: Germany (Levina – “Perfect Life“)
  • Most innovative way to shine a spotlight on the mosh pit: Ukraine (O.Torvald – “Time“)
  • Winner of the Eurovision Staring Contest: Belgium (Blanche – “City Lights“)
  • Best tribute to OK GO by frat boys: Sweden (Robin Bengtsson – “I Can’t Go On“)
Hey girl…..
  • Best love theme to every movie adaptation of a young adult romance novel ever: Bulgaria (Kristian Kostov – “Beautiful Mess“)
  • The annual award for the most successful theft of France’s thunder: the juries, who ranked “Requiem” in 18th place.
  • Most likely to get there, popular: Portugal
Also, most innovative millinery fashion!