2018 Review: Azerbaijan

2016 was won by a jazz singer. 2017 was won by a jazz singer. Azerbaijan last year sent a jazz singer and placed 14th. Czech Republic sent a jazz singer and placed second last in the semi. So when ÍTV announced that Azerbaijan was sending AISEL, another jazz singer, we really had no clue what was going to happen. That is, until her song “X My Heart” was revealed to be composed by half the Dream Team and Sandra Bjurman. Okay then, it’s a standard pop song co-written by the best of both worlds in the voting blocs.

And yes, it’s “cross my heart” like PED XING signs, not “nix my heart.” Congratulations Lighthouse X, you’re not the only entrants to confuse people with how to pronounce the X.

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It’s not a bad listen at all, but this is one of those times that I wish I couldn’t understand English so AISEL would just be singing a bunch of random syllables similarly to Sanomi. Unlike some countries that may or may not get inspiration from someone’s TOEFL vocab list, this song seems to go with whatever comes to mind. Okay, so tearing down firewalls and letting the person? But she’s stronger than cannonballs? And Luna should moon her up to the top? Is she an alien or one of the weird alien ships in Meet Dave, and is Luna the program system in the ship?

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Given that AISEL has been presented in caps, you never know what it could stand for…

All I know is I should probably stop overthinking this, enjoy the tune when it’s on my shower playlist (so I can’t turn it off), and wait for someone to do a dramatic reading of the lyrics….

 

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2018 Review: Austria

So Austria’s had a bit of fun moving up and down the scoreboard in the past few years. 2014: win. 2015: nil pointe. 2016-2017: hanging around the right side. So what does a delegation do after realizing that there’s a local artist who sang backings for a country that placed 8x better than their own?

Simple: Ask that local artist to sing for their own country. And that’s what ORF did with Cesár Sampson: after singing backings for Bulgaria in the past two years to help obtain two top 5 placings, he was internally selected to sing for Austria this year with the song “Nobody but You”.

I’m having a lot of fun listening to the song and attempting to sing along with (minus the belting part, especially when I try to walk up a hill to school). At initial listen it sounds a bit like an uptempo revamp/remix of Australia’s entry last year, replaced with a more experienced artist and with less space to improv. Lyrically speaking, he’s a lot more involved in the described relationship as well. Instead of Isaiah’s “sorry it looks like we’re not moving forward; I’m still dealing with a lot of prior emotional baggage that makes it difficult for me unless I know I can trust you 200%,”, Cesár’s monologue sounds a bit more like “Look, I’ve been trying to not think about you, but that’s like trying to tell me to ignore the rice that’s taking up 50% of my plate, so I’m wondering if you’re thinking the same thing, (and please tell me yes because we’ve been together for X amount of time).”

Derp. And given all of this I can see for the nth time, why I’d rather send my partner YouTube links to a song instead of telling them straight.

Anyways, lyrics aside, what’s up with the last two years of Austrian ESC music videos being filmed in snowy forested areas? I’m pretty sure they could come here and film one too:

 

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On my way to the doctors office…

 

2018 Review: Australia

After three top 10 performances, Australia is here to stay. Once again they’re going with internal selection, and the artist might seem familiar because in a way, this is her 2nd performance at Eurovision:

Back in 2014, Jessica Mauboy was listed as one of the interval acts in the 2nd semifinal of the 2014 contest. Australia and SBS were still in the talks with the EBU about participating, but they were already able to showcase what the country had learned about Eurovision over the past 30 years and demonstrated that they would be a competent act in future years. After all, Australia can *technically* claim three of Ireland’s wins because Johnny Logan was born near Melbourne.

4 years later, she’s back but as a competing artist with the entry “We Got Love.”

For starters, we’re finally back to an uptempo entry from Australia after their past two (albeit very well-produced) ballads, and for anyone not following the Australian music scene, yes the composers DNA *do* write uptempo songs. Plot-wise it’s similar to Ireland’s 2013 entry: despite all the bad things on earth, love is still present. However, for some reason the tune song also reminds me of “Try Everything” from the movie Zootopia. I’ll probably chalk it off to G:Son’s statement that a lot of pop songs sound similar and it’s definitely not enough for anyone to pick up the phone and call their lawyer, but I am getting similar vibes due to the upbeat feeling, how everything’s going to be okay even if they don’t seem like it.

Overall I have a gut feeling that she’s probably going to qualify because of Australia’s recent relationship with the juries. Also, given that Jessica’s a lot more experienced than Isaiah last year she should be a lot more comfortable on the stage, and this song has a lot less room for the ehh…freestyle that happened during the semi last year.

2018 Review: Armenia

The last time I uploaded a Eurovision review, I was still on winter break. Thanks to pharmacy school, lack of spoons, and lack of motivation, Song #43 has already been released and I’m currently posting Review #2. At this rate, I might as well post them by ABC order, so here goes:

Armenia decided to go with a standard national final this year instead of last year’s artist selection similar to The Voice. 20 songs, 2 semis, 1 final, and streamed onto YouTube. Pretty simple or?

I didn’t watch it. Or it was more of “I tried to watch it, but the connection to the stream was terrible, kept freezing/buffering every 5 seconds, and I had an exam to study for anyway.” That was slightly disappointing, since last time I tuned into the AMPTV stream to watch Junior Eurovision.

Going into the national final I had only paid attention to two songs: “Poison (Ari, Ari)” by Tamar Kaprelian (who participated in 2015 as a member of Genealogy) and “Qami” (“wind”) by Sevak Khanagyan. Given that Tamar didn’t qualify after placing 6th overall in her heat and the questionable stream quality, I put my attention elsewhere until they announced Sevak to be the winner. Okay not bad, one of the songs that I remembered won.

When I listened to the song properly, it reminded me of Armenia’s 2007 entry due to the similarity of the two songs being ballads performed by male artists laced with emotion. However, while the former was of Hayko promising unconditional love to a partner, in “Qami” Sevak mourns the loss of a partner (or other loved one). Given the English translation that the wind took this person away, I can’t help but imagine this in the context of the Nicholas Sparks movie “A Walk to Remember.” In the movie the characters describe that “love is like the wind; you can’t see it, but you can feel it,” and I can imagine a sad and angry Sevak cursing the wind’s presence for reminding him of this loved one who’s gone, wanting to close his eyes, block out the present, and imagine that everything is back to what things could have been in the past.

As for staging, given that RTP isn’t going for LED walls like the past few years, part of me is imagining the backdrop to be either shadows similar to Isa’s “I Will Wait” at Melodifestivalen or Lindsey Stirling’s dance tribute to her father in Dancing with the Stars/Strictly Come Dancing. It’s either that or there could be a wind machine with a trenchcoat. No matter what they pick, the staging and televised aspect will play a major role in all the acts this year, and despite already winning The Voice in Ukraine, Sevak is definitely going to need more than just his voice.

2018 Review: Albania

So I tried watching Festivali I Kenges. Note that the main word is *tried* and I got through 6 out of 11 songs of the 1st semifinal before running low on battery, having to run an errand, and having approximately zero motivation to watch any more. From what I remember, there was a reeeeaaaaalllllly long interval act, a lot of ads (i.e. one every two performances), and interviews before and after each performance. And the host may have said “fake news.”

He also apparently did this. I’m not sure what happened but okay then.
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**This is a disclaimer that you are a not a bad fan if you don’t watch national finals. If you do have the time to follow all of FiK, MESC, and San Remo, good for you and kudos for having all the patience. If you don’t have time to watch all or any national finals (e.g. me, a pharm student who’s already terrible at time management), you’re okay.**
So I might have missed the winner but Twitter clearly hadn’t, so I woke up to people cheering over the winning entry of FiK 56, “Mall” (“Yearning”) by Eugent Bushpepa.


(Also according to dict.cc, the Albanian word for “shopping mall” is “mapo.” Fingers crossed it’s correct unlike google translate…)

Let’s start with the obvious: Unlike the past 3 winners of FiK, the performance Albania/RTSH plans on sending this year is NOT a woman belting a diva ballad. Okay sure there’s still belting and some people might still put it in the ballads category, but it’s definitely less typical of what Albania’s been sending. As for the performance, Eugent Bushpepa has definitely sold it. We know he can sing live (as shown in his covers of Rona Nishliu’s “Suus” and Scorpions’ “Still Loving You”) and can fill a stage, so we might expect something similar in Portugal. As for the tune, it reminds me of a national park documentary when the camera is taking footage of the landscape combined with a bit of Voltaj’s “De la Capat” and Common Linnets’ “Broken but Home” and some extra drums and guitars. I also appreciate that the song’s in ¾; it’s not very waltzy but “Mall” definitely has a pulse that I could obtain a blood pressure reading from.

So yeah, I really like the song; it’s currently my top ESC entry of 2018 so far XD.

 

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Like this happens EVERY SINGLE YEAR. And then fights break out on YouTube because one person ranked their #1 as someone else’s #2. 

But I’m about 200% certain that I won’t be able to rank this song fairly due to one reason: the lyrics. While I might be lactose intolerant, the first time I read the lyrics translation I got severe feels, churning out serious Lane Moje– like vibes. Had I been single it probably wouldn’t have done much, but at the time of me writing this, I’m not. (Rather I’ve fallen so deep, I’m in too deep). The lines were relatable to the point that I could see myself again in my student apartment 700 miles/1120 km from home missing my partner, having trouble falling asleep due to test anxiety, and my pulse keeping me awake until 2:30 AM (as well as the subsequent phone call from my ex-manager reminding me to concentrate on the course material for exams and not on my partner).

 

 

Eugent Bushpepa mentioned in an interview that he wrote the lyrics when he was “away from his family, away from his better half.” But unlike me, who only managed to pull off a 2:30 AM sleep-deprived letter closely resembling a 2-page drunk text, he actually wrote a coherent poem, fit it to a tune, and won a music festival with it.

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…)