2015 Review: Greece

No matter what ERT/NERIT sends, there will be complainers. They’ll complain that they’re sick of laiko/laiko-pop/folk pop and want a different genre. They’ll complain that too many people sing in Google Translated, super-cliché English. They’ll complain that no one outside of Greece understands Greek. And they’ll complain if the song’s not laiko-centered.

So there was no surprise that members of the blogosphere started complaining about the Greek entry again. Unlike the past few years, Greece decided to send an English ballad with no signs of ethnopop, as NERIT sent Maria-Elena Kyriakou and her song “One Last Breath.”

At first listen, the song sounds very similar to Anna Vissi’s 2006 entry: it’s a female solo singing a post-breakup song that starts out soft but reaches a climax at the final refrain (which will most likely appear on the recap), except there are much breathier vocals.

Though there do seem to be a lot of ballads this year, the song is a break from all the ethnopop entries that seem to use big SAT words to match syllables. Even if it turns into one of those super cliché breakup songs, at least the song’s not puking a rhyming dictionary. And okay, I don’t think “One Last Breath” has the power as “Everything” did in 2006 due to the other entries in the final, but I think Maria-Elena Kyriakou should make the final and probably finish somewhere better than Greece’s result last year from jury votes.

And also, what’s the major problem with Greece’s entries? Sweden doesn’t have to always send schlagers and Greece doesn’t have to send laiko-based entries…

2015 Review: Italy

Italy went back to San Remo Festival (a.k.a. the precursor to Eurovision) as a national final, and they selected the group Il Volo (“The Flight”) with the song “Grande Amore.”

I didn’t listen to the song until RAI officially announced that the song was going to represent Italy because the song was a minute too long and no one really knew what Il Volo would perform. Also, RAI pulled a song change in 2012 and I still didn’t trust their initial pick.

When “Grande Amore” was officially announced as the official song, I finally listened to it and decided that it was okay. Yes, the harmonies were great. Yes, the harmonies were powerful. I’m guessing that’s going to show up in the recap and it’s going to sound better live than Emma’s entry last year. And yes, they’re going to get younger voters’ points from their looks and jury points from their voices.

At the same time, I’m still thinking dentist office if they didn’t have their music video up. In that case, I’ll pull out my ace of cakes card and say that the reason I haven’t watched the full music video is because there are too many scenes of people making out and it’s distracting. The guys also look like they’re off One Direction to sing opera.

Sorry, I’m not the biggest fan. Oh well, they’ll do great without some American who can’t vote anyways.

2015 Review: Austria

After returning to the contest in 2011 and getting not-so-decent scores for three years (as in: one 18th place and two DNQ’s), Austrian broadcaster ORF chose an internal selection and won. Now that Austria’s going directly to the final as a host, they decided to hold a national final again.

“We’re actually having a national final this year?”

I didn’t watch the national final “Wer Singt für Österreich”, but it looks like the same story as Sweden 2013, when the public selected Robin Stjernberg after Loreen’s 372-point victory. Nothing in the national final seemed half as awesome as the previous winner. I would have picked a more “risky” entry, “Absolutio” by Johann Sebastian Bass (reminiscent of Finland’s Opera Skaala), but the televoters and jury went for the MakeMakes and their song “I am Yours.”

This is the kind of song that my dentist would play in his office while waiting to stick a tiny pneumatic drill in my tooth. It’s to calm people down in case the anaesthetic doesn’t work 100%. Otherwise, the song would feel just right in a small coffee shop/pub stage.If the MakeMakes are intending to give that feeling with a stripped-down, music-only based performance, they’re succeeding. However, I don’t know if the song is able to fill a 15,000-person arena. They might be able to pull it off with smaller camera shots and if their relaxed feelings can pass through TV screens. At the same time, since it is so calm, the only thing keeping my attention on the screen is that their piano is on fire. Unlike Ralf Gyllenhammer’s controlled flames in Melodifestivalen a few years ago, the MakeMakes’ piano gradually catches fire to the point that the lead singer would have to stop, drop, and roll if he kept playing.

Does anyone have the local piano store’s number? I kinda need to get my piano fixed, after it went up into flames…

2015 Review: Montenegro

The world found out back before Skopje Fest that the artist Knez was representing Montenegro. And then he disappeared from the blogosphere, only to show up a few times to report on a birthday cake to announce that Balkan ballad wizard Željko Joksimović was going to compose his entry. Suddenly he re-appeared to present his entry, “Adio.” And if I hadn’t watched the video, I would have guessed that it was Željko himself instead of Knez.

Given the composer, I don’t think anyone’s surprised that it’s another Balkan ballad. And yes, Knez can sing them. (That’s actually where I first found him: singing “Lejla” on the Serbian version of “Your Face Sounds Familiar.”

 

This entry’s tune sounds a little more upbeat and optimistic, somewhat like last year’s Montenegrin entry. It’s got the same ethnic instruments, but it’s less stringy and has more drums. As a result it reminds me of some of Željko Joksimović’s non-ESC songs: I don’t want to say turbo-folk-y, but more folk-pop-ish than his entries from previous years.

Anyways, congrats to being the only ex-Yugo participant not singing in English. Here’s your cake.

It’s actually his birthday cake that he posted on Twitter… aesj.

2015 Review: Israel

(For anyone who feels like complaining that the country shouldn’t be participating, they ARE a member of the EBU and therefore they CAN participate. Just saying…)

After 4 years of not qualifying, Israel is sending 16-year-old Nadav Guedj to represent the country with the song “Golden Boy.”

The beginning sounds like what happened to Armenia’s 2010 JESC winner: After asking his mom for advice on how to ask a girl he likes out and the two dating for a while, the couple broke up and the boy’s not happy. But unlike >95% the breakup songs on the radio, he’s not sulking around and complaining. Instead he decides to ease the pain by going clubbing (and possibly impressing someone with his dance moves).

IMO the song sounds like Azerbaijan’s 2009 entry “Always” to the point that I can shout the refrain of “Always” on top of “Golden Boy.” But that’s probably the only similarity due to the Middle Eastern pop tune, and since this year seems like it’s full of ballads and slower songs, I think Israel’s entry is going to stand out.

And here’s a tip from Nadav: When your 3 minutes are up, don’t forget to remind everyone that you have to leave the stage….

OK, gotta go, 3 minutes!

2015 Review: FYR Macedonia (pt.2)

I had to wait a while to write this because at the time, Macedonia (FYR) was at the top of my list. I loved listening to Daniel Kajmakoski’s voice and spent a lot of time listening to his X-Factor Adria performances, and after stumbling for hours over the lyrics I managed to sing along with the song. I swear I had minor blood pressure spikes from watching videos that constantly ranked Lisja Esenski in bottom 2, and celebrated when people started ranking other entries last.  So that was then…

…And then they changed the entry. Not only did MRT/MKRTV change the lyrics from Macedonian to English, the tune was changed from the original upbeat Skopje Fest version to a slower, sadder, Balkan ballad-esque, final version.

I wanted to explode at the time. I complained to my friends that the entry got ****ed up, that I didn’t care if Daniel advanced to the final anymore; the Macedonian delegation wouldn’t qualify and that would be their punishment for sending a screwed-over song.

This would be me but I already paid too much replacing the computer screen. And it would also mean not being able to watch YouTube videos anymore…

But then I listened to the new version and the old version next to each other over and over. The English version used autumn leaves to symbolize the end of a relationship, while the Macedonian version used them to symbolize falling in love:

Koga životot mi beše taka siv vo boja ti go napravi, sega lebdime sami kon ljubovta slobodni ko lisja esenski

“When my life was grey you added colour. Now we float, free to love like the autumn leaves.”

Since the Macedonian version was more upbeat due to the theme, the slowed down English version makes more sense. It would sound weird if a breakup song was happy. Besides, why else would the Balkan ballad-style violins show up? The English lyrics aren’t that bad either. Unlike some songs that seem to have been written via Google Translate, the lyrics are coherent and do tell a story. I still find myself getting chills from the song’s emotions and tune, so that’s a good thing.

Also, how does someone not enjoy the doodles?

So it’s probably not my number 1, but it climbed from emotionally-charged bottom 10 back to somewhere in my top 10 again. And I really hope Daniel makes the final. I do miss the awkward foot-slide-y dance from the Macedonian version, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to keep practicing.

 

Semi-Final Running Order

Yesterday the EBU revealed the running order of the semi-finals (pre-arranged Melodifestivalen style to keep the shows exciting and to make sure no one accidentally uses their favourite song as a toilet break).

Semi-Final 1:                                                              Semi-Final 2:

1) Moldova                                                                  1)Lithuania
2)Armenia                                                                   2)Ireland
3)Belgium                                                                    3)San Marino
4)Netherlands                                                             4)Montenegro
5)Finland                                                                      5)Malta

Commercial Break                                                       Commercial Break

6)Greece                                                                        6)Norway
7)Estonia                                                                       7)Portugal
8)FYR Macedonia                                                       8)Czech Republic
9)Serbia                                                                         9)Israel
10)Hungary                                                                 10)Latvia
11) Belarus                                                                   11)Azerbaijan
12)Russia                                                                     12)Iceland

Commercial Break                                                      Commercial Break

13)Denmark                                                               13)Sweden
14)Albania                                                                  14)Switzerland
15)Romania                                                                15)Cyprus
16)Georgia                                                                  16)Slovenia
XXXXXXX                                                                  17)Poland

I’m not very good with predicting winners since my favourites since 2011 placed last in the semi, 3rd in the final, 15th in the semi, and second last in the final, so I’m not going to make predictions until I see what the live performances in Vienna look like. But who do you think is in or out?