2016 Review: Hungary

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After four direct qualifications to the final and really high ratings for A Dal, I thought I would try following the national final. And then I tried listening to all the songs and it didn’t work very well. Maybe it was because I tried listening right before falling asleep, or maybe I didn’t really care at the time. Anyways, the eventual winner of Hungary’s national final was Freddie (not his real name) with “Pioneer.”

And like pioneer wagons, the song plods along. I don’t care much for the song, and while the song sounded nice while listening to it for the first time right after A Dal, I couldn’t remember anything until watching around 40-50 “top 43” ranking videos. So now I can probably remember around 15-30 seconds of the song (that’s around 8-17% of the song). And even then, I had to go back to Wikipedia to look at what the title was. That’s probably not a good thing.

Of the part(s) that I do remember (“A million asdfasdfasd a million asdflkja;sldf, something something along”), I like the whistling that makes the song seem somewhat laid back, and the grit in Freddie’s voice is also really nice. (It’s especially nice for someone who can’t hit high notes, gets called “sir” on the phone, and gets told she can’t sing with the guys when trying out for choir because while she can hit some of the low notes there isn’t enough power in her throat to belt and she’s “capable” of singing alto part). I’m a little confused to the flames swirling in the backdrop like it’s from the aerodynamic shapes exhibit at the science museum though. Is he leading people through a tunnel of flames? I’m also more confused to why people ranked him top 10 in their ranking videos. Am I missing something, because there has to be more than his face looking nice on TV…

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Well he can perform in awkward settings and not look awkward, maybe that’s the thing?

Sorry Hungary, but I’ll probably be getting food during this song.

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I’ve got a hunger…for food

Douwe Bob recently announced that he came out walked out of the basement as bi (He said he couldn’t come out if he was never in the closet in the first place). Most people weren’t really surprised at the news, considering that a few months prior he presented a song about people being straight/gay/bi. As someone who doesn’t speak Dutch, all I got out of it was that he used a commonly seen analogy of liking food X or food Y. And that he seems to know how to work camera angles on TV.

I was a little disappointed that he couldn’t at least leave some bread and cake (throw in a line about aces and pans) on the table, but I understood that sometimes syllable count in a song doesn’t work on new information. It’s not every day that the lyrics can include “han och hon och hen.” He partially resolved it with a love song for his beer, but given the first song’s theme, aces are left hungry. And I’ve got a hunger (for food)…

Instead of explaining sexualities with food, what about explaining them with shoe preference? That way the aces won’t go hungry, and it’s pretty much safe to go barefoot in non-extreme conditions. (Just a note for fellow Americans: you will get thrown out if you go barefoot at Krogers though…)

  • Heterosexual: Prefers wearing flats
  • Homosexual: Prefers wearing heels (Yes, I was listening to the Kinky Boots soundtrack while coming up with this)
  • Bisexual: Is fine with wearing either flats or heels
  • Pansexual: Is fine with wearing any type of shoe (as long as they like them)
  • Asexual: Prefers going barefoot, but can enjoy looking at shoes or listening to Kinky Boots or Diggiloo-Diggiley. (Note that all of these people can physically wear shoes; they are just drawn to specific types or none at all.)
  • Demisexual: Prefers going barefoot in most cases, except there’s that one specific pair that they’ve seen for a while that they really like.
  • Aromantic Asexual: Prefers going barefoot, doesn’t care to look at shoes either.

If that doesn’t work, it would be nice if people quit being ace-ist and recognized that bread and cake exists. What do you think the bakery’s for? Or are there that many people who can’t bake?

2016 Review: Netherlands

After 3 years of bird representation followed by a year of no bird representation (and a possible member of avian OGAE attacking me), the Netherlands has decided: No birds this year, unless there’s some kind of poultry product served at the café in the music video. In that case, the avian OGAE will have to settle with some random person in the back of the café eating chicken nuggets. And to be honest, mystery meat chicken nuggets are as close to actual chicken as Russia is from Sarah Palin’s house. They’re not even that good. To get back on topic, Douwe (not duvet) Bob is representing the Netherlands with “Slow Down.”

I really like the song, and by coincidence it really fits in with my neuroanat class right now: on the first day of class, the first thing the professor Dr. K mentioned was that the brain is inhibitory for a lot of actions. We previously learned that a motor signal via the lateral corticospinal tract starts from the motor cortex, going through the midbrain and pons (“let’s build a bridge”) and crossing over to the contralateral side with a pyramidal decussation at the medullary pyramids before going down to the spinal tract to move an arm or leg. However, Dr. K hadn’t mentioned at the time that this pathway involved another step through the cerebellum. Without the cerebellum’s inhibitory Purkinje cells (turned on= will inhibit, not turned on= will not inhibit) slowing down signals from climbing/mossy fibers, the signal to slowly reach your hand out to shake hello would turn into an impulsive punch.

Stuff for class (yes, Dr. K, I’m studying right now…)

**For anyone looking for a TL; DR on the former paragraph, there’s a part of the brain that slows down actions so they’re not jerky/spastic/impulsive.

At the lyrical level, Douwe Bob’s protesting against everyone who keeps saying that “life is a race; if you don’t run fast enough, you’ll be trampled.” Instead of kids enjoying their childhood, parents put them into cram schools and tutoring to fight for an Ivy League spot. And then at uni it’s work, study, barely any sleep, repeat (hopefully) 4 years (for who knows what shame you get for going over), and then get out with a plum job to earn a good paycheck (and all you’ll get is shame if you have to keep working in the bakery). And instead of taking an hour’s lunch break to eat a bowl of chicken stew and maybe put in a power nap, the manager/boss expects a 15 minute break for you to shove 10 chicken two-legged-walking-protein nuggets down your throat because food breaks waste time and productivity. Of course, it already doesn’t help that the blood supply to brain is at a really high pressure. At a more personal level, it’s a little signal to stop panicking, to take in deeper breaths, drink a mug of tea, take a short break, go for a walk, anything to get my symps to stop firing as much (or at least inappropriately) and turn into the worrying kind. And there might be people around saying that it’s a bad idea, but nowhere in the song does it say to stop. It’s just that sometimes we have to walk instead of run.

So don’t forget, taking short breaks increases productivity and hopefully motivation too.

 

2016 Review: Poland

Every once in a while specific people need a reminder that the general public doesn’t share the same demographics with the 24/7 fandom or the Twitter community. Also, the fandom’s #1 pick not winning doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. You don’t have to take stats class to know that.

Poland had that situation during its national selection: Prior to the national final, Poland was number one in the betting odds to win Eurovision 2016, dependent on 24-year-old Margaret winning with “Cool Me Down”, composed by the team that wrote Aysel & Arash’s “Always” along with Linnea Deb (who co-composed “You” and “Heroes”). The fandom kept heaping praise on the song, that it was modern and radio friendly, that Warsaw would host 2017, etc.

And then she didn’t win.

Neither did 1994 runner-up Edyta Gorniak

Since the international fandom is not the same as the Polish televoting audience, and extreme Polish Eurovision fans do not make up 100% of the Polish televoting audience, the winner ended up being Michał Szpak with “Color of Your Life,” a.k.a. a younger version of Weird Al Yankovic singing a Disney ballad. Or as some people say, a person trying to go for the Conchita “beard and long hair” votes (and we all remember how that went in 2015…)

I was kind of surprised that Poland selected a song so similar to last year’s entry (a sweet-ish ballad). It’s got a bit more power (which my anatomy prof who doesn’t care for ESC would explain because he’s got more lung capacity from standing up vs sitting down), and it’s not the disaster people keep saying it is. Granted, it does sound like a Disney ballad, like someone would decide to troll viewers with this song instead of “I See the Light” in Tangled. The refrain’s really easy to remember too—it’s just aaaaaaah for half the song.

ESC probably won’t go to Warsaw next year, but we can guarantee that Michał Szpak will enjoy his time in Stockholm as a Eurovision fan, and I don’t think he’ll view it as that big of a disaster if he doesn’t qualify. (And given what’s in semi 2, no one really knows what’s going to happen anyways..)

2016 Review: Slovenia

Marjetka’s voice in 2015 reminded people of Duffy. This year Slovenia picked ManuElla, who reminds the audience of Taylor Swift. And yes, she’s well aware of the fact:

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I don’t know how she came up with the concept, but one possibility is that she originally planned on writing something “black and white” related and realized that everyone had already done that countless times. As a result, she changed colors and wrote the song as “Blue and Red.”

My first thoughts outside of, “She looks like Taylor Swift,” was “But blue and red make purple.” It didn’t make much sense since most people learn about mixing colors in elementary school art class, or at least when they try to color with their blue crayon over the red crayon. Maybe she was referring to printer colors, which only print four colors (red/magenta, yellow, blue/cyan, and black): Even when the colors look mixed on an image, in detail it’s still those four colors. In that case, any purple image is still just a bunch of blue dots and red dots. In that case, it would make sense that the two colors are kept separate all the time. Analogy-wise it also works, if she’s saying that blue is sadness and red is happiness and that someone can’t be happy and sad at one instant (though it’s possible over an extended period of time). The only time where it doesn’t work would be if she ran at supersonic speeds and the red ended up looking blue.

On a completely separate note, the ace in me couldn’t help but connect that red and blue make purple (bottom stripe of the ace pride flag) and that ManuElla appeared to be wearing a black ring. But as she wasn’t wearing it on her right middle finger, it wasn’t an ace ring. Whoops. Oh well. If it was, it looked a lot nicer than mine…

2016 Review: Finland

After hearing that the 4th Mello semifinal wasn’t that good, I decided to watch the final of Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu (the Finnish national final) on February 27. I tried watching both at the same time using two separate screens the weeks prior, but it didn’t work out very well, especially when trying to listen to Swedish in one ear and Finnish in the other. Let’s just say that didn’t work, and I decided that one screen and one NF was enough.

Thank goodness for SVTPlay App. But at the same time, listening to two songs at the same time is really hard.

Overall it was a really good show (bar a few people singing off key) and I was glad to not be able to vote because I wouldn’t be able to just pick one:

Mr. Lordi demonstrates that Finland can share Krista Siegfrids with Sweden…

Love is Blind: Audio alone, this song is a toned down, PG version of Tooji’s “Father Project” (NSFW), which criticized religious groups’ lack of acceptance for LGBT, that anyone not fitting the groups’ standards would go to hell. I really liked the song in studio, despite the really cheesy lines like “love is blind” or “I won’t go to heaven if you aren’t by my side.” On the other hand, the song is in the grey region between Eurovision and Pride, where the host location alone would determine whether “Love is Blind” would have a too-political entry. Performance-wise I wanted to like the live version, but Cristal Snow was so off-key in his performance that I spent the entire 3 minutes wondering if his in-ears failed. I understand that at least one of the demon backing singers was screaming to add a bit of dissonance and give a bit of a “hell” feeling, but it didn’t seem to work as planned. Also, if South Park hell could pull off a choir, then so could Cristal Snow.- 6th place

Cristal Snow shows that demons can be good backing singers. Some audience members are curious to whether Hell has good in-ears available.

Ain’t Got Time for Boys: This was one of those songs that I didn’t really pay attention to until the final. I knew that it existed, and that it seemed like a pretty chill, jazzy, coffee-shop-open-mike-night vibe entry in people’s ranking videos. Unfortunately, a) it was in unlucky slot 2, and b) compared to all the other entries it seemed like the toilet break entry of the show. If the song was playing on the radio, I might enjoy it. While it definitely worked on TV by filming a lot of close-up shots and not making the stage drown her out, and she pulled it off well vocally, it felt like watching the performance took more energy than the song provided. – 8th place

Stella Christine’s backing singers are trying to order Starbucks. One extra espresso shot please.

Good Enough: Before we go anywhere, here’s a reminder that Angelo de Nile, the guy who had the crazy Roman gladiator musical last year, is the same person as Kimmo Blom. This year he still brought the musical theatre aspect, but this time it was much less OTT and he didn’t have his character role to act through. And while it was what the ESC fanbase would call “a generic ballad most likely paired with an Azerbaijani fire curtain written by a Swedish guy who couldn’t make it in his home country”, Kimmo and Annica performed it really well with a lot of chemistry (probably because they are also a couple in real life). I don’t think anyone has done the mirror trick so far, with the two singing away from each other but looking at each other’s reflections (virtual images), and then the mirrors moving away for them to look at the real people. The real vs. virtual message worked with the lyrics, which really sang to me, especially the lines in the refrain, “When only silence haunts you and no one really understands you/pick yourself right back up, you’re better than just good enough.” Brain chemical disasters= shite. Someone telling you that you’re better than good enough=it’ll be slow but you’ll recover.- 5th place

Annica Milan realizes that Kimmo is standing right behind her and that YLE didn’t order the Mirror of Erised.

Draamaa: Sweden (or at least Björkman) claims that schlager in the Mello world is dead. First off, schlager is not dead. It’s just that composers can’t send “meh” schlager entries that are “so last generation” and expect a great result. Eini pulled it off really well vocally and visually in the final, especially with the dancers in the background. I have absolutely no idea what she was singing outside of the word “draamaa” but it was a fun song to listen to. Also, given that around 95% of Eurovision NF entries are of artists between ages 16 and 35, it was really nice of YLE to invite an artist outside that range and unlike Mello (*coughcough*), have her qualify and not place last. -7th place

Eini’s backing dancer is confused to why the national anthem is playing right now.

Let Me Out: Like Stella Christine’s entry, I didn’t pay attention to this song until the final and only knew that it was a rock entry performed by female artists. Given the pop song majority at UMK and that they were loud enough to keep the audience awake, the Barbe-Q-Barbies were bound to stand out. Despite only hearing the entire song once, I can still remember the general tune of the refrain, so that’s usually a good thing. -4th place

Remember when we got THIS MANY points back then?

Don’t Wake Me Up: So Conchita’s “Rise like a Phoenix” is one of her favorite entries; that’s probably why she wanted a similar, simple stage act of standing on a platform and telling a story. The blue atmosphere with rain showed that it was a sad story, but the story telling wasn’t as effective as her music video (where people at the party were destroying all the memories of her partner), and I don’t think it transferred as well to the audience (hence the last place). Yes, she was a good singer, I really liked the song in studio version, and she seemed to match the studio version live if I closed my eyes, but I got confused visually. Blue and rain was supposed to mean sadness, but what about the red shoes and the fire curtain that typically mean something happy? Did ManuElla from Slovenia try to do a subtle promotion about blue and red? Or did Tuuli Okkonen just really like those shoes?- 9th place

Tuuli Okkonen realizes that Slovenia already did a “blue and red” theme but it’s too late now.

Sing it Away:

Thanks to the jury, the song is now representing Finland. When I first listened to the studio version, my first thought was that Sandhja (the H is silent) reminded me a bit of Miley Cyrus due to her hairstyle, outfit, and lower singing voice (I blame the canteen at uni for blasting Wrecking Ball every 10 minutes for the comparison). Once the song built up to the refrain, the brass-band-y part reminded me of Australia’s entry last year. Out of the upbeat songs in UMK, this entry sounded like it would do well on American radio. She looked like she was enjoying her performance, as she had a lot of fun on stage interacting with her backing vocalists and bringing her party on stage to the rest of the audience. I was a little confused about the screen blocking on camera though. What happened then? Did one of the backing singers suddenly do something YLE deemed inappropriate to show on live TV? (In that case, does the Finnish version of the FCC have a 6 second delay on TV too?) Did someone have an accident? Or did they block the screen because it looked cool? Anyways, now that she’s going to Stockholm I wonder what she’s going to do since the Eurovision stage will be much bigger than the UMK stage.- 1st place

Sandhja decides that she can get away with 3 minutes of stand-up. Well it worked today!

No Fear: Well surprise, surprise, Ms. I-place-second-in-everything placed second again (despite winning the televote). This was the first UMK16 entry that stood out for me in studio, due to the song’s eastern/southern Asian elements. And while yes, there was the super obvious pride theme since she came out sometime last year, “No Fear” works for anyone feeling shite and wanting to feel self-love, to be accepted instead of given murder for being different; I found myself singing the first verse a lot after getting yelled at for the tiniest details at home. While it was great in studio and she did give a good performance on stage, it wouldn’t have worked out had she won UMK. For starters, only 6 people are allowed on stage, and backing vocal tracks are not allowed. I’m going to guess that she didn’t have any backing vocal tracks, but for the super-OTT performance she had 4 backing vocalists and 6 dancers to complete her costume change. Given that she kept the same performance, cutting down to 3 dancers and 2 backing vocals wouldn’t have worked in her favor. At least the Finnish public really liked her song and performance, so maybe she now has a lot of tours to look forward to. -2nd place

The dancers realize that they should have showered when Tuuli was on stage. What’s the point of towels if they can’t use them?

On it Goes: So Mr. I-lost-to-Krista-Siegfrids-in-2013 came back to UMK, with, what seemed like in the studio version, another sleepy ballad that I couldn’t pay attention to. As a result I wrote him off prior to the contest. His performance during the semifinals changed my mind, as he was on key and could match the studio version, if not perform even better to project his emotions to the audience through the screen. It was a really intimate performance, with just him and the (at first sight kind of creepy) dancer on stage, like one of those really intimate scenes in a musical that would appear on the Tony Awards. Given his vocal and stage performance, I thought he was going to get the ticket to Stockholm, but Finnish voting isn’t very predictable, and some people might have found his act a bit pretentious. So a respectable 3rd place it is. (Thanks asphalt constructors for the 12 points!)

Mikael Saari wonders if he’ll ever get a calling to represent Finland. His dancer just wants to finish the stage act and get food.

***Note: All captions are fictional and don’t represent what actually happened. The pictures are from YLE. And now that I’m done, I’ll leave the computer and go get some salmiakki.

2016 Review: San Marino

San Marino just released their entry which does not involve Ralph Siegel: a Turkish artist singing a Greek-composed entry, performed in English, recorded in Belgium, and presented in France.

There are very few times that I can’t finish watching an entry’s music video. This is one of them. I didn’t know (yes that’s the title) that Serhat’s entry was going to be this creepy. My friend thought it was awesome, but I couldn’t make it past the 2 minute mark.

I’ll try to write something once I can finish the video. As of so far, I’m on the bad side of the marmite. Sorry San Marino.