2017 Review: Australia

In 2015 SBS was told that Australia could stay as long as they won. They haven’t won yet, but last year Australia almost won the entire contest and actually placed first in the jury vote. So maybe they’re here to stay.

Given last year’s good results, SBS decided it was a good idea to go with their (almost) winning formula: Pick an X-Factor artist, and get DNA (David Musumeci and Anthony Egizii) to compose their song. The song would be simple but the production would be great, and it would show off the artist’s vocals, because sometimes it seems as if it’s the Eurovision Belting Contest.

Enter Isaiah Firebrace and “Don’t Come Easy” (which I’m going to guess Microsoft Word is going to pick up on as a grammatical error sometime in this post).

It took me about 10 minutes to listen to the song, not because I didn’t dislike it, but because I kept pausing the video and thinking, “That’s the exact same face that the pharmacist at work gave me when he forgot his phone on the other side of the building and tried to get me to grab it.” Except the pharmacist maintained it for about 10 seconds; Isaiah maintained the same expression for 3 minutes straight. It’s probably all due to the eyes; it definitely helps if he’s getting out the message of “Look, I’ve been through a lot of relationship drama; and I want to keep going with, but it’s going to take a lot of work from both of us.”

As for the song, vocally he pulls it off. It reminds me a lot of Sam Smith’s “Stay with Me”, but DNA managed to make the two songs sound distinct enough (unlike Greece *cough*). It’s simple, but given last year, you never know what Australia’s going to bring to the stage (once it turns into the Eurovision…Effects Contest…)

 

2017 Review: Greece

Greece didn’t qualify last year and broke their streak of 100% qualification when they placed second last in the semi. Needless to say, ERT wasn’t very happy to see that and needed something to bounce back to a respectable placing. A win would mean bankrupting the country (or at least the TV broadcaster), but somewhere in the top half would be great.

In that case, the best thing would be to call Ghostbusters the guy responsible for a bunch of Dream Team entries that’s in town and ask him to write a song for a big-name artist. And that’s what they did. After announcing that Demy would represent Greece, ERT announced that Dimitris Kontopoulos (co-composer of 6 Eurovision entries from 5 countries, all of which placed in the top 10) would compose the entry. Three songs were composed, a (somewhat questionable) national final was held, and Demy’s song turned out to be “This is Love.”

Okay so #ControversialEurovisionOpinion: Even though I wasn’t a major fan of “Utopian Land” at first, last year was better.

Even though Demy’s confirmed to be a good singer, even though we’re pretty much guaranteed to see a great stage show, especially if choreographer Fokas Evagelinos is involved, this seems like a rehash of Germany’s 2013 entry, except ERT changed up the artist, made the song three minutes to start with (so no weird fail edit), and avoided copyright/plagiarism issues. (ESC Pulse also mentioned that “This is Love” appeared to have the same structure of Russia’s entry last year…which was  *surprise* co-written by the same person.)

So yes, Greece is sending a plug and chug entry. It’ll qualify, and it’ll get a score more respectable than second last in the semi, and I might put it on my work playlist because it’s uptempo, but it’s not really going anywhere outside the contest.

2017 Review: Germany

Okay. So now that national final season’s been over for pretty much a month, Eurovision promotion parties are popping up (all of which I can’t attend because I live six time zones away), I might as well mention that outside of Sweden, Finland, and the second half of Estonia, I didn’t watch any national finals.  Even if I did sit through every Super Saturday, I would still have an excuse not to watch Germany’s national selection because it’s on…Thursday? And I had class at the time? Due to this the only German national final I’ve watched in the past 5 years has been 2016, which I’m still bitter about NDR not selecting monks with lasers.

This year’s German national selection was pretty much a condensed version of its 2010/2012 national selection; instead of happening over the course of probably 6 weeks, NDR made a shortlist of 32 artists (33 if Nathan Trent hadn’t been selected for Austria) and narrowed it to 5 artists that would make the stage. Once this was done, over the course of 3 hours the audience had to decide 1) which artists would make the “audition”, 2) which versions of the two selected songs would make the superfinal, and 3) which superfinal entry would represent the country. Artist Levina went to the superfinal alone, her version of “Perfect Life” eventually defeating her version of “Wildfire.”

I don’t know if the massive amount of dislikes is due to the song or because the national final was a mess. However, I will mention that this song sounds super generic. It might be well produced, well performed, and be a great radio hit with a good beat to keep morale up at work, but nevertheless generic. When my friend listened to this song for the second time, he started singing Katy Perry’s “Firework” on top of the refrain. And then there’s been a major plagiarism accusation of the composers ripping off the introduction of “Titanium.” This probably shouldn’t be the worst case scenario though; last time when Germany got caught in another plagiarism accusation, i.e. “Glorious” sounded like “Euphoria”, Thomas G:Son put down his verdict: Most pop songs sound the same. No further comment.

Anyways, in a way it’s similar to Sweden’s 2003 entry, in which the lyrics write themselves. I don’t want to go the same route as Julie Frost at Austria’s national selection last year (i.e. “As an American/native English speaker”), but the lyrics are really cliché, especially “I’m not afraid to make a mistake/sometimes it’s wrong before it’s right.” I still like the first part of the refrain, where Levina sings that she’s “walking asleep, dreaming awake” or “almost a sinner, nearly a saint,” and she explains that she’s a mess of contradictions. It might be simple, but it gets the job done and fits the syllable count.

The “almost a sinner, nearly a saint” line distracted me a bit after listening to the song a few times. If she’s almost a sinner and nearly a saint, she’s therefore neither a sinner nor a saint. Anyone up for her to do a version of Alcazar’s 2003 Melodifestivalen entry?

2017 Review: Russia

So Russia obviously didn’t win Eurovision last year, due to placing fifth in the jury vote despite winning the televoting. I can definitely feel for Sergey Lazarev, especially after the presidential election here in the US: same story with second place winning the televote popular vote but losing out on jury electoral vote. And of course in both cases, the winner turned out to be involved in major controversy. In the US, that turned out to be whatever circus is going on in the executive branch right now. In the Eurovision world, that meant another year of messy relationships between Russia and Ukraine. Sending an internationally popular artist in attempt to create a “positive stereotype” didn’t work in 2016; as a result, Channel One went back to its original tactic from 2013: sending a seemingly apolitical peace ballad by a female artist. This time they chose Julia Samoylova with the entry “Flame is Burning.”

Even though I don’t dislike Russia’s entry this year, it’s not one of my favorites and took me about 20 listens to enjoy the song. It’s probably due to the supposed “ballad dominance” every year, despite ballads making up only 1/3 of the songs this year. And yes, there can be ballads with drama shooting up and down like Albania’s, or ballads that pull a Scorpions’ “Still Loving You” and drag out emotion for as long as possible. However, Russia’s entry is not one of them. It’s there, it’s sweet, but it doesn’t stand out in its initial listen, and somehow it reminds me of the one image on FB of Charmander in the rain.

Also, even if Julia Samoylova had been announced, selected by Channel One Russia, or even shortlisted, her song seems to have been given to her at even shorter notice. Given her previous performances in Faktor A (Russian equivalent of X-Factor), especially this performance of Molitva, a) she didn’t seem to have as much time to rehearse, b) she’s 200% likely to not be a native English speaker and probably learned the lyrics phonetically, or c) both a and b. However, if it weren’t a Eurovision entry, I could definitely picture her singing this song with a children’s choir (or at least at some elementary school’s music event).

Politics aside, the song isn’t terrible. Song-wise she can definitely pull it off (especially since she’s singing while sitting down and therefore with reduced lung capacity), and it theoretically could be viewed as sincere and a part of her personal story. But then there’s…Cry-Me-A-River-Gate.

Due to the Russian and Ukrainian claims over Crimea (i.e. Russia has claimed Crimea as Russian territory since 18 Mar 2014; Ukraine rejects this claim and still considers the area Ukrainian soil), Ukraine passed a law stating that individuals entering Crimea without a permit from the Ukrainian government have entered illegally; individuals who do so will be declared personae non gratae and banned from any future visits to the country.

And that was what happened with Julia Samoylova. She performed in Crimea in 2015 (and posted it on social media), a year after Russian annexation. As a result, the Ukrainian parliament blacklisted her from entering the country for three years. Channel One Russia retaliated by threatening to withdraw from the competition and leave. I’m going to guess that Channel One Russia and Russia-1 pay a lot to the EBU for participation in Eurovision, because the EBU suggested that Ukraine delay the travel ban until after Eurovision, or let Russia bypass the entry ban by performing via satellite link. (Ukrainian Parliament blocked the offer by stating that they refused to live-stream personae non gratae, and Channel One Russia refused because a) it was weird and b) it seemed to go against the spirit of the contest.) The EBU has also suggested negative consequences for not allowing Russia’s participation, but besides the Romania’s incident last year nothing has been forcibly done. Armenia, which had a clear violation of the “no explicit politics” rule last year by waving a Nagorno-Karabakh flag at the semifinals, was told to meet with the EBU in June for discussion, and that has not led to anything visible outside the world of Eurovision HOD’s.

No comment on how Channel One Russia made the decision, but it definitely seems like a live action YouTube comment page full of trolls. I still don’t know what’s going on between the three individuals fighting in the sandbox (and commentators on the side selling fruit gushers), so I’ll back off and say that if “Flame is Burning” participates, it probably won’t do well due to its lack of immediate impact and be propped up to 9th-11th place simply with the connection to Russia.

I still want to hear that children’s choir version though…

2017 Review: Sweden

Aside from Finland’s Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu, Sweden’s Melodifestivalen was the only national final where I watched/listened to all the NF entries. I’m still pissed off that the official Mello channel is blocked on YouTube in the USA, but thanks SVT Play and everyone else who isn’t SVT on YouTube posting all the videos.

Overall it was a pretty good Mello year. There was a lot of variety and favorites in the semifinals (and a lot of returnees—12/28 of the artists this year participated in former years). The final didn’t turn out as diverse as UMK but I’m still fine; I liked most of the entries. My favorites were Jon Henrik Fjällgren+ Aninia, Robin Bengtsson, and Mariette; Nano, Ace Wilder, and Boris René were pretty good too. I also found myself warming up to Benjamin Ingrosso’s entry after seeing the results in Semi 2.

As for the ones that didn’t make it, my favorites were Loreen, De Vet Du, Roger Pontare, and Adrijana. Loreen and DVD crashing out of AC was slightly understandable, due to the entries being either a)marmite or b)entries that needed to be watched at least 2-3 times to get what was going on, as was Adrijana’s entry getting 6th in Semi 1. Roger Pontare placing 5th, on the other hand…I’m still annoyed. Even though I knew that Benjamin Ingrosso was going to qualify direct when there was only one more name to be announced I was hoping that it would have been the epic anthem rather than the entry that sounded similar something on a Disney Channel special. Eventually I warmed up to Good Lovin’ but I still wish there could have been an extra 13th slot. (SVT would have put me on Mariette’s bungee cords to keep me from tampering with the results though). So now I’ll just imagine that everyone who didn’t vote for Roger probably took A and P with one of my professors and didn’t do very well in his class.

Anyways the eventual winner was Robin Bengtsson with his song “I Can’t Go On” (which is sort of a prequel to his previous entry “Constellation Prize”). And fun fact, this is the second artist named Robin that won Melodifestivalen by winning the jury vote only. One of his song’s co-writers, Robin Stjernberg, did the same in 2013.

When I first listened to the song in Semi 3, I couldn’t get it out of my head after one listen and I wanted to listen to/watch it again, with the slick performance, the snapping, the catchy hook. Okay I’ll admit it; the lyrics aren’t going to be AP English material and someone posted in a confessions box that they could fit on a Post-it note due to all the repeating lines. Then again, that’s probably one of the reasons why “I Can’t Go On” is Ohrwurm-y as hell. I’m probably guilty for at least half the listens on YouTube, most of which are involve rolling down the car window and singing with at the top of my lungs.

Or should I say “as fuck” instead? Had the original Mello version been sent to Eurovision, the contest would have been rated R in approximately one minute, and/or the EBU would be slamming the dump (censor) button on average every 18 seconds. I’m not the EBU, SVT, or anyone in Robin’s delegation, but IMO throwing an R in the system interferes with the sound aesthetic. However, like any of the three parties mentioned above, I don’t want the song disqualified, so I’m keeping my discourse down about the song getting Kidz Bop treatment and the word “fucking” getting changed to “freaking.”

OK so I can definitely say this song is in my top 3, and that’s despite two major things that should be keeping me from liking it:

I got food poisoning when listening to the song. Something similar happened prior in 2015, when my friend tricked me into drinking milk when I’m lactose intolerant and I got really nauseous while listening to Moldova’s entry at the time. As a result, I associated the song with nausea and was forced to put it in my bottom 3 even though it would have gone maybe 5-10 places higher. As for Sweden’s entry this year, somehow I didn’t end up hating the song after combining it with food poisoning, nausea, and a migraine. Okay then.

I’ve probably mentioned this ad nauseam (*facepalm due to above paragraph) but I’m asexual. I’m a pancake and a bit flux-y, but I definitely have my baker’s cred. The issue is that this song is literally about sexual attraction. I’m pretty sure after the third semifinal I’d been having an internal debate over whether I should even like the song being a cakey person. Eventually the “Liking this song has absolutely nothing to do with your identity; you’re still valid” voice won over, but I still find it a bit ironic.

So yeah…I really like this song, despite factors suggesting that I wouldn’t. I don’t have any flags at the moment; maybe I should borrow one from Ikea for the semi/final?

2017 Review: Armenia

AMPTV announced a really long time ago that Artsvik Harutyunyan, the winner of national selection Depi Evratesil (“To Eurovision”), would represent Armenia. Given that her first name means “eagle” in Armenian, it wasn’t exactly surprising that her song would be called “Fly with Me.” I was also looking forward to another good entry written by Lilith, who had co-written Aram MP3’s entry in 2014 and Iveta Mukuchyan’s entry in 2016.

So who remembers back in elementary school, when people used to write “The topic of this paper is XXX”? Or maybe when people had lab reports to write and wrote “The purpose of this experiment is XXX.” (Speaking of lab reports, I probably should get back to writing mine after finishing this review…)

Prior to the song’s release, this was Artsvik’s description of the song:

My song tells a story of a girl, who is the metaphorical symbol of love. She embodies the colors, the stories and the voices that make us who we are. “Fly with me” encourages everyone to come with me on this girl’s journey of championing the diverse and beautiful human nature. I think nowadays it is especially important to embrace our heritage and our traditions. We, the people – our colors, our stories and our voices make up this world. We must never forget that this girl’s light and love is one for all of us.”

Fast forward to the song release, and the first line of the song was “I want to tell a story about a little girl with history.” That definitely brought me back to English class. Otherwise, I like the song, especially the “Fly with me high” hook, but I wish Artsvik had a stronger voice to fit the backing track; it seems as if she’s using primarily her head voice. Or maybe that’s just me, because I’d probably sing it in a lower register to not crack when trying to belt something.

As for now, this might end up on the work speaker playlist. On the other hand, if I start dancing it might get taken off again…

2017 Review: San Marino

When I first heard San Marino’s 2012 entry, I facepalmed and I’m pretty sure my jaw hit the keyboard in the school computer lab before coming up with words to yell at Ralph Siegel.

In 2013, I screamed when I heard Valentina Monetta was returning to the contest, but I eventually warmed up once the song came out, even feeling a bit disappointed when she missed out by one place in the semifinal.

In 2014, I didn’t even react when SMRTV announced she was coming back for a 3rd time; pretty sure the only reason to send her at the time was to finally bump San Marino into the final. And she did. It was only 24th out of 26th, but it was a spot in the final and she got to perform twice that week.

Fast forward 3 years to 2017. San Marino’s sent two 16 year olds from JESC building singing about building a potential fire hazard and a Turkish Jeopardy host singing disco. They’ve been memed on Twitter into the country that sends artists from countries that don’t participate in Eurovision, or even the country that sends reject national final entries.

Well they didn’t send a reject national final entry (How would they select it? Through OGAE Second Chance? A national final similar to Twitter contests? And how weird would it be if Loreen represented San Marino?). Instead they announced that one person would be from the EU and another person would be from outside the EU. Enter Valentina Monetta for the fourth time and American-singer-living-in-Germany Jimmie Wilson.

If the US could vote in Eurovision and people participated in neighbor voting, then this would be the one country that I would vote for despite not being that big of a fan. Even though I could also choose between Albania (Lindita lives in Georgia), Denmark (Greenland is part of North America), Iceland (the closest country in Europe on the Atlantic side), or Russia (Sarah Palin can allegedly see Russia from her house). However, Jimmie Wilson happens to be from Detroit. I live in southeast Michigan. That’s close enough.

As for the song itself, I listened to it for the first time and guessed that it was a Ralph Siegel entry. No surprise. Given that a lot of people on Twitter have been complaining about the number of ballads, being an uptempo song, albeit an uptempo disco song from the 70’s and/or belongs on a cruise ship and/or Schlagerfeber might have fun singing this, should give San Marino a bit of an advantage. At first listen the voices don’t seem to mesh very well, but that appears to be due to accents. Valentina Monetta, being from San Marino and not speaking English as her first language, still sings English with an accent. Jimmie Wilson, on the other hand, is from Michigan and doesn’t have an accent at all. There’s also the factor that their voices have really different textures- one is smooth (reminding me a bit of Leslie Odom Jr. or Guy Sebastian) and the other not as smooth.

The conversation that they’re having in the song seems kind of awkward at first listen, but at the same time I haven’t paid much attention to the lyrics. It probably would not matter as much, as the few groups that do pay attention to the lyrics are a) the small group of fans who learn all the lyrics, b) whoever puts subtitles over the live performances, and c) Buzzfeed, which proceeds to mock lyrics over the said subtitles.

While I do think SMRTV should find someone else that isn’t Valentina Monetta to represent the micronation (or at least give her a jazz song to work with for once), this isn’t bad and there might be another borderline qualifier for San Marino this year. However, if they don’t, I wouldn’t be surprised.