2016 Review: Iceland

In 2012, Greta Salome sent in two songs for the Icelandic national final Songvakeppnin, one she performed in and the other which she didn’t perform in. The act which she performed in won the selection and she got the ticket to Baku as both composer and performer. This year was the same story: Two songs in Songvakeppnin and she won with the song that she performed. Four years ago she sang that she (and Jonsi) would never forget. This time she hears voices calling (most likely due to her phone going off).

Since the most prominent item in her staging is the light screen, everyone’s been talking about it and how projection mapping is apparently now copyright MZW. She’s already mentioned multiple times that yes, while both require very detailed stage movements for the artist, the two acts are different: one is projecting lights onto the surface of an opaque dark screen, while the other is shadows projected onto a light screen. (For the public that keep forgetting, shadows and screens aren’t 100% original either; try Lithuania 2007. At the same time, neither is dancing with a wind machine or retelling St. Teresa’s visions if you’re not St. Teresa.)

Like ManuElla’s printer ink colors, the voices that Greta hears are a mixture of good and bad, but still distinct. The voices that should be listened to are the people, and those that should be ignored are hands, ready to punch or grab. But since I just finished a biochem exam the day this post was written, part of me is imagining Greta performing affinity chromatography with antibodies that will ignore the bad voices and react to the good voices. Someone else can collect the bad voices, but Greta’s not going to.

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2016 Review: Moldova

After Moldova’s disappointing (and completely undeserved) last place finish in 2014, TVM opened up the selection to all artists around Europe and went for someone who looked like IVAN’s younger brother and sounded like he escaped an early 2000’s boyband. Combined with way too much lactose and too many (read: more than 0) unnecessary crotch shots, this entry ended up in my bottom 5 ranking. (Wow, I guess sometimes sexual orientation DOES affect song ranking XD)

Since that didn’t work out, TVM went back to only opening the contest to Moldovan citizens only. Unfortunately, due to suspected corruption in the contest, some of the more prominent or more hyped acts withdrew, such as Elle (which included former entrant Natalia Barbu) and Litesound. With some of the competition gone, Lidia Isac was able to win Moldova’s national final with the entry “Falling Stars.”

And yes, Swedish composer Gabriel Alares, who co-wrote the Norwegian entry, also co-wrote this song. (G:Son, on the other hand, only has one country this year.)  This entry sounds like a “stereotypical” schlager entry that would show up in the dance club or maybe at Pride Prom if the DJ ever decided to play Eurovision-related entries. Unless you end up standing right next to the speakers without earplugs in, this would probably be fun to move along to. Given that there aren’t that many songs of the similar genre (outside of Russia, though YATOO is more Pirates-of-the-Caribbean-ish), it should stand out in the semi***.

(***This doesn’t mean that it’s guaranteed to do well. Finland stood out last year too.)

2016 Review: United Kingdom

The BBC has tried national finals, only to place last twice in the past ten years. They’ve also tried internal selections; while some of them managed to escape the bottom 5, the results were still disappointing and the BBC has still been criticized for not letting the public have any input.

This year they returned to an open selection. While it was only on BBC4 instead of the main BBC channel, and the song choices weren’t on the level of the more popular national selections, it’s a step in the right direction. After a bit of technical difficulties (e.g. the microphones shorting out), the public eventually chose the duo Joe and Jake to represent the UK with “You’re Not Alone.”

For starters, they’re clearly not alone on stage, given that there are two people and not one (unlike Aram MP3). While it seems a bit inoffensive, a bit forgettable and cliché/cheesy, it’s definitely not the worst song in the mix. They can harmonize pretty well, which can be heard in their live performance videos at the promo parties, they’re enthusiastic about being a part of the world’s biggest music festival, and after signing their record deal they moved in with each other to commit to their music project. After a few listens the refrain gets a bit more memorable, given all the repetition of notes and the line “They don’t need to know-ow-ow-ow.” They’re also not singing the exact same few phrases throughout the entire song either.

So…don’t get last place? It’s either that they’ll get last place because the “terrible” entries are more memorable, or they could manage to get out of the bottom 5 because they can sing. (TML, but yes, I’ve got really low standards for them as of right now. And is it bad that I still don’t know which one is Joe and which one is Jake?)

2016 Review: Greece

Looks like the first thing ERT did when get the EBU membership back from NERIT (the interim broadcaster while ERT temporarily shut down) was decide against the MADTV collaboration and internally select something ethnopop and relatable to the recent refugee crisis. The selection, which was allegedly singlehandedly made by the head of ERT, was the Pontic Greek group Argo (formerly known as Europond) with the song “Utopian Land.”

When I first watched the video in March, I thought someone had pulled a joke, uploading a parody of “I Wanna be the Guy” synced to some kind of Greek-sounding music, except the person doesn’t die, nothing falls on him, and there isn’t any change in the person’s running speed. So it’s pretty much just a fancy screen saver, where a male raps the Pontic Greek verse and a female sings the English refrain. Song-wise it’s a plodder like the (slowed down) running guy in the video, and it felt a bit disappointing at first compared to the last non-English entry from Greece. The rap part brings a bit of the energy back up, though it feels really paced, probably due to the running guy trying to maintain his breathing pattern and not overexert anything. Maybe it’s because later in May the artists will be performing Pontian dancing (which looks similar to other Balkan-region circle dancing) while singing, and someone may or may not pass out if they are spitting out all the fire and air used to move their feet.

2016 Review: Bulgaria

Bulgaria called it quits in 2013 when their highest-scoring artists Elitsa and Stoyan couldn’t repeat their success of qualifying for the final, but they decided to return after they hosted Junior Eurovision and searched for Poli Genova’s dress.

Given her success presenting at JESC last November, BNT decided to internally select her to return to the contest after 5 years, this time with the song “If Love was a Crime.”

While Poli’s 2011 entry was pulsing with anger to stay in a relationship despite outsiders’ doubts, her 2016 entry feels a lot more lighthearted.  And since the words run a lot faster than in Na Inat, the phrasing reminds me a lot of one of my chemistry professors, who tends to jam a few syllables together into less than 2 seconds, pauses, and repeats until the sentence is over.

Once the verse shifts into the refrain, the tone changes from lighthearted to somewhat more sad-wishful-emotional, like the relationship described is there but it can’t be made public. I really like the say she says “miracles” and “criminals”, kind of like in one of those songs that shove too many syllables into one line to show that there’s so much emotion or back story it wouldn’t fit the syllable count. And then comes the chant-refrain of “o, daj mi ljubovta”, turning the song into one of the most Ohrwurm-y songs in the contest along with France’s “You-ou-ou-ou.” I can’t get the song out of my head after simply looking at the lyrics, and I’m pretty sure a lot of fans will be able to sing along after one or two refrains.

Given the hype, I really hope that Bulgaria at least qualifies to the final. Top 10 (or even top 5) would be fantastic, but given how bad I am at predicting the scoreboard prior to the semis, having them qualifying would already be a step up from staying in the finals every year except 2007.

2016 Review: Lithuania

Donny Montell is back four years after Love is Blind, which was complete with sparkly blindfolds, one-handed cartwheels, and air guitars at the time. I’ll guess that he still had an itch to return and that he had been waiting for the night that Lithuania selected him to represent his country.

When the song was released in the beginning of Lithuania’s Eurovizijos marathon, I was really bored. This sounded really cheesy and cliché, and it didn’t really help that I’m lactose intolerant: While I didn’t almost throw up again due to a friend tricking me into drinking a glass of milk, I don’t want to deal with cheese unless it’s self-inflicted, not to mention that the song’s not clearly labeled like Denmark’s 2014 entry. After looking at the list of composers, I wasn’t really surprised that he teamed up with a Swedish group in order to enter something “radio friendly.” Eventually I warmed up a little to it, but I’m still not sure about how to react to Donny’s hair.

In the song, Donny sings about the night he’s been waiting for. But what night could it be about?

  • The night when he finally sees his SO or family after a long time
  • The night that Eurovizijos ended
  • The night that he performs on the Eurovision stage in Stockholm
  • The night that he finishes and mails off his tax returns, and doesn’t have to worry about them for another year
  • The night that an album gets released
  • The night that he gets a record deal or job
  • The night that the movie he’s been waiting for comes out on midnight release
  • The night that he gets a big paycheck
  • The night that spring cleaning is over
  • Etc…

 

2016 Review: Sweden

6 weeks well spent. Or as my family says, 6 weeks wasted from not studying. 😡

Ahhh, Melodifestivalen, six weeks of Swedish musical fun. This was my first year watching all 6 shows. Or maybe I should say I attempted to watch all 6 shows, but then Uuden Musiiken Kilpailu got in the way, and watching two screens at a time is really difficult, especially if:

  1. Both the programs are live
  2. One program decides to show really loud advertisements or interval acts while the other program is still showing a song performance (which given the timing, is probably a ballad)
  3. The shows are in different languages, neither of which are English or have English-language subtitles.
  4. The Internet connection sucks.

Not doing this again. I’ll just watch one show at a time next year.

As a result, I gave up halfway and just watched UMK live while following Twitter for live updates about Mello watching the program on SVT play the day after. Either way, I got to listen to all 28 27 (Anna Book got a free ticket to Dairy Queen due the song being performed in Moldova by a different artist) entries and enjoyed most of them after a few listens. Some of my favorites included…

Bada Nakna– Samir & Viktor (did not deserve last place)

Constellation Prize– Robin Bengtsson (sometimes there’s a time when you need to be told you’re beautiful)

Kizunguzungu– SaRaha (the updated version of Waka Waka)

Don’t Worry– Ace Wilder (summarizing the life of every broke uni/grad student)

Human– Oscar Zia (out people are people too)

My Heart Wants Me Dead– Lisa Ajax (a happy song despite the title)

Håll om Mig Hårt– Panetoz (will cheer you up every time)

Then again, since I don’t have a Swedish SIM card, I couldn’t vote even if I wanted to. Eventually the winner was Frans, whose song “If I were Sorry” ended up in the Spotify world charts (and #1 in Sweden right after semifinal 4). As a constellation consolation prize to all the non-Swedes who went all pitchforks and torches on Twitter right after Mello ended, he still received 0 points from the Belarusian jury, placed second behind Oscar Zia with one point, and obtained only 14.4% of the televoters. He’s definitely not sorry about winning though.

If I had no clue to what was going on and turned on the video in the middle of the performance, I would have guessed that he was some British guy, whose face looked a bit like Ted Cruz, walked onto stage by accident, decided to recite a poem about his recent breakup to everyone watching him just because the stage lights were on his face, and won the entire competition against everyone who looked (at first sight) that they were actually participating.

I’m going to guess that Frans will probably keep the same simple staging in May. Given that SVT’s trying to keep the budget relatively low, that’s pretty likely. The music charts would say he’s doing that because it’ll be a nice contrast against all the fancy performances with a radio-friendly hit that jumped to #1 on Spotify right after his Mello performance in the semis. The SVT budgetary crew would probably say it’s because they don’t have to cover accommodations for backing singers that don’t exist, custom stage costumes, or much promo (because Sweden gets the hype simply for being Sweden). I wonder how he’ll place in May though. As of so far, they haven’t gotten any back to back wins, and it seems pretty unlikely this year.