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 voting 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’ve 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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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.

The 2014 Eurovision That Almost Was: Semifinal One

It’s time for our annual posts that take a look at the Eurovision that could have been by reviewing the second place finishers at the National Finals. (You can find the previous Eurovision That Almost Was posts on our 20112012, and 2013 pages.). Putting this post together, we feel a twinge of regret and even some anger. For our money, this alternate universe of near misses would have been a better show than what we’ll get in May.

Armenia. Internal selection, not applicable.

Latvia. Dons, “Pēdējā vēstule.” The structure of Dziesma did Latvia a disservice this year. With “Pēdējā vēstule,” Latvia had a big Eurovision song and a professional, competent vocalist.  Dons was getting regular radio airplay in Latvia, and he has since had multiple charting singles on the Latvian pop charts. “Cake to Bake?” Not so much. At Dziesma, Dons won the jury and narrowly the public vote to take him to the Superfinal. Though he again won the jury in the Superfinal, Dons lost his bid to Copenhagen because the public went for “Cake to Bake” by a margin of 97 votes. In Latvia, tiebreak goes to the public.

Estonia. Super Hot Cosmos Blues Band, “Maybe-maybe.” In the first round of Eesti Laul voting, this bluesy rock singalong emerged as the surprise #1 pick of the Estonian jury and the televote. The song proved to be highly divisive with fans, however, and in the Superfinal the televoters turned out in droves, ultimately tipping the scales toward Tanja.

Sweden. Ace Wilder, “Busy Doing Nothing.” What a missed opportunity this was: a multi-week Swedish chart topper, with genuine potential to be an international hit. “Busy Doing Nothing” was catchy, cheeky, and immediate, and stands toe-to-toe with anything Kesha puts out. However, Ace Wilder was largely unproven–especially in comparison to long-time entrant Sanna Nielsen–and it would have been a bitch to get the vocals and staging right with the six person limit. Ace missed the win by only two points.

Iceland. Sigríður Eyrún Friðriksdóttir, “Up and Away.” An unholy mashup of Beyonce’s “Single ladies” and “Big Spender” from Sweet Charity, performed by Hayden Panettiere + 40 pounds. How did this make it to the Superfinal? Dire.

Albania. Klodian Kaçani, “Me ty.” An old-fashioned Balkan ballad that was bombastic but lacked any real impact. There was a big gap between Kaçani’s result and first place finisher Hersi Matmuja.

Russia. Internal selection, not applicable. Russia’s process was pretty chaotic this year. They first announced a national final to be held in December, then postponed it to March. But then in March, they pulled back and announced it would be an internal selection. Russia finally revealed their song right at the entry deadline, which was by all accounts a rush job. The rumor (denied by Philip Kirkorov) was that Russia had plans to send Sergey Lazarev, a well-known Russian pop singer, and a current judge on the Ukrainian The Voice. This was, of course, before all the…ahem…unpleasantness.

Azerbaijan. Khana Hasanova. “Start a Fire” was an internal song selection, but Azerbaijan held a television series to select the artist. In Boyuk Sehne, Hasanova proved herself an able vocalist across different music styles. She was good on camera as well. Still, Dilara Kazimova had a connection that left no doubt in our minds that she was the better choice.

Ukraine. Viktoria Petryk “Love is Lord.” Viktoria Petryk knows a lot about finishing 2nd. After all, she placed 2nd for Ukraine in the 2008 Junior Eurovision Song Contest. In the Ukraine selection this year, she trailed far behind Mariya Yaremchuk with the public, ultimately only managing 4th. Her 2nd place placement can be attributed to a boost from the judges. But because this is Ukraine, there were allegations after the contest that the phone lines were blocked for other contestants, which is what caused Yaremchuk’s runaway public victory. For what it’s worth, “Love is Lord” is an overwrought, oversung ballad, but it would have been a better choice than “Tick Tock.”

Belgium. Bandits, “One.” Ugh. I thought we had moved past the Arctic Monkeys. Of course, in the end it wasn’t really much of a contest. Axel Hirsoux’s victory was decided by 57% of the public televote, while second place Bandits received only 17%.

Moldova. Boris Covali, “Perfect Day.” You really have to wonder if the Moldovan organizers have it out for Boris Covali. “Perfect Day”–think Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” if it were a showtune–convincingly won the public televote (which, in the Moldovan national selection, is announced first) only to be spiked by the jury. The same thing happened to him last year. Too bad, because “Perfect Day” is far more coherent than “Wild Soul”.

San Marino. Internal selection, not applicable.

Portugal. Catarina Pereira, “Mea Culpa.” In 2010, Catarina Pereira convincingly won the public televote with “Canta Por Mim” (a more enjoyable song than Festival da Canção winner “Há dias assim”) only to have her song quashed by the jury. Pereira’s 2nd place finish in 2014 was deja vu, not in the least because “Mea Culpa” is basically the same song. This time, however, Pereira managed only 24% of public vote, well behind Suzy’s 42%. Pereira’s fans were livid, and after the contest, Pereira and another finalist launched complaints about the outcome.

Netherlands.  Internal selection, not applicable.

Montenegro. Internal selection, not applicable.

Hungary. Bogi, “We All.” We don’t definitively know who finished second in Hungary’s incredibly competitive national final because the results of the public SMS votes weren’t released. However, Bogi performed strongly throughout the A Dal selection process, and after the first round of voting in the final, her catchy, feel-good anthem (with special added bonus lemurs) managed a 2nd place ranking with the judges.

 

The Eurovision That Almost Was: The Big Six

We wrap up our look at what might have been with a gander at the Big 5 countries and Sweden.

  1. United Kingdom. Internal selection, not applicable.

  2. Sweden. Yohio, “Heartbreak Hotel.” It takes some guts to name your song “Heartbreak Hotel,” but any 17-year-old who can craft a perfect androgynous anime character look is not short on guts. Yohio overwhelmingly won the Swedish public vote. However, he couldn’t overcome placing second from last in Melodifestivalen’s international jury vote to snag the win. Robin Stjernberg came second in the public vote and first in the jury vote, which was more than enough to book his place in the Eurovision Song Contest Final. Frankly, we’re not complaining since we felt like Yohio’s stunning style couldn’t prop up a sub-par HIM-meets-The Ark pop-metal number.

  1. Italy: Internal selection, not applicable. However, since Italy picks its Eurovision entry from any of the artists who perform at its Sanremo Music Festival, it could have done what it did in 2011 and selected Sanremo’s Young Artist award winner,  “Mi servirebbe sapere” by Antonio Maggio (who sports a similar quiff to Samremo winner Marco Mengoni). On the other hand, Maggio’s song is a bland slice of quirky Italian pop, so we’re not going to suggest the selection panel made the wrong decision.

  2. France. Internal selection, not applicable.

  3. Spain. El Sueño de Morfeo, “Atrévete.” ESDM was an internal selection, but a vote was held to pick the band its song. If you can imagine Dervish rocking out, then you might conjure up something like “Atrévete.” It was the wild card pick chosen online before the Spanish National Final. However, when it came time to choose, “Contigo hasta el final” received 53.4 percent of the public vote and the first place vote from all three judges on the jury. “Atrévete” was the clear runner-up, with second place votes from the three judges and 33.7% of the public vote.

  4. Germany. LaBrassBanda, “Nackert.” The voting structure for this year’s Unser Song combined votes from a public televote, a live jury that included last year’s German representative Roman Lob, and a vote conducted of radio listeners who registered their choices online after all the songs aired on nine radio stations around the country. Cascada was the favorite going in (since they were already an established pop act), and they scored 12 points from the televote, 10 from the radio listeners, and 8 from the jury.

LaBrassBanda were the clear choice of the radio listeners, who gave their horn-driven beer hall rave-up 12 points. They also captured 10 points from the televote. However, their chances to win were demolished by the jury, who only gave them 1 point. It almost makes you wonder if the jury knew the radio vote going into the final. Cascada won by seven points, and if the jury vote had been consistent with the other two groups of voters, Germany would have had a far different sound gracing the Malmö Arena.

UPDATED 24 APRIL 2013: Ospero points out in the comments section that my analysis there doesn’t quite work out, mathematically speaking. Still, it is worth noting that the jury was absolutely not impressed with LaBrassBanda.