Countdown to Eurovision 2017: 8 Days

A Cheat Sheet to Get American Viewers Up to Speed

This year’s Eurovision Song Contest takes place May 9th, 11th, and 13th from the historic capital city of Ukraine, Kyiv (formerly known in the West as Kiev). This is the 62nd edition of the Contest, which was initiated in the post-World War II era to reunite the badly divided continent through the power of music, glamour, and television. From the seven countries that took part in the 1956 debut, Eurovision has grown to the most widely-watched television non-sporting event in the world, with 43 countries competing in 2017 to present Europe’s song of the year.

The world’s very first reality TV contest, Eurovision is often compared to shows like American Idol and X-Factor, but there are several big differences. First, Europe is voting to crown a newly-composed original song.  The artists performing the various countries’ entries range from 16 year old first timers to returning veteran superstars in their 50s and beyond. Solos, duets and groups are allowed, with a maximum of six onstage (including any backup singers or dancers).

Each nation’s entry is chosen by an official TV network in that country according to their own rules, via internal selection, or various televised contests to choose a song and an artist to perform it. And the song must never have been performed publicly before the national selection season which begins in the autumn before the next year’s May finals. The winning artist gets a lovely crystal microphone trophy, a great deal of publicity and continent-wide fame, and not a penny of prize money.

Since the winning nation of the last year’s contest is given the opportunity to host the next year, ESC 2017 has presented a very thorny path from conception to execution.  Last year Ukraine’s Jamala won with her historic (many say overtly political) ballad mourning the slaughter of Tatars by the Russian armies, 1944.  A bit on the nose, considering that the two countries are once more battling over the Crimea, which was part of Ukraine until Russia moved in to claim it as a rightful part of their own country. There is currently no love lost between the two nations, and Eurovision fans were left wondering how the situation would resolve itself this year.  Messily and bitterly, as it turned out.

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Russian Sergey Lazarov sees his popular 2016 entry fall short as Ukraine wins Eurovision.

Russia was already stinging over having presented the most-voted entry of last year and still reaching only a third place finish due to its unpopularity with professional juries (who award an equal number of the final scores). Australia was the big jury vote magnet, but fell to second place in the final scores when the televotes had singer Dami Im as fourth most popular. Ukraine was the consensus choice when their second place scores from both the televoters and juries vaulted them into the highest overall position. Did you get that (scoring can be a bit confusing in this contest)?

This winter, Russian media began a campaign to complain that the West was unfairly marking down their entries for political reasons, and that Russia should pull out completely. Their devious ultimate strategy, revealed at the last possible moment, was to send a pretty handicapped girl singer with a lovely song about unity and togetherness to get sympathy votes from everyone… But WAIT! Their innocent young wheelchaired songbird was also known for entertaining ethnic Russians and army troops occupying Crimea, in flagrant violation of Ukrainian law.  The host broadcaster in Ukraine complained to the contest organizers of the European Broadcast Union that no matter what the broadcasters’ desires for unity might be, they couldn’t disregard their country’s laws and allow the Russian entry to be performed in Kyiv. The EBU really bent over backward to accommodate Russia, and even offered to allow Yulia to compete from a home country studio in Russia via a live satellite hookup, but neither Russia nor Ukraine were happy with that compromise.  Russia pulled out of the contest and blamed Ukraine. See, there are Russian scandals in all kinds of venues this year.

So the major pre-Contest story this year was that major player Russia, which generally places in the top five or ten every year of Eurovision finals, would not be participating, voting in, or broadcasting the show in 2017. This creates a lot of ripples that will affect the voting and performance of many of the 43 entries that ARE performing and competing in this popular music extravaganza.

Postscript:

The European Broadcast Union and contest organizers are still trying to figure out who to punish for this mess, and hinted that both Ukraine and Russia could face penalties of being shut out of the competition for three years.

 

 

Kiev 2017?!

Last night in a nailbiter that proved Sweden’s idea to separate out the televote and present it from lowest to highest scores was the right way to energize the final portion of the show,  Australia clobbered everyone in the jury vote, Russia topped the televote, and then Ukraine won by coming second in both categories.

Ukraine’s song is emotional, heartfelt, and very dark, recounting the feelings of loss Ukrainian Tatars suffered when Russia attacked in the throes of WW2. It’s not a song that people will get down to on the dance floor, sing along with at Eurovision parties, or probably even buy mp3s of online.  It’s a worthy winner, but not a fun one.  If Australia or even Russia had topped the scores, the crowd in the arena would have been jumping and bopping to the final reprise. Instead they watched and applauded respectfully.

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Sergey and Jamala have two different reactions to his voting score and her victory.

But Ukraine must be respected and applauded for her commitment and artistry.  Let’s wait and see how the hosting gig for next year plays out, since the Ukraine government and tv network are not exactly flush with cash to mount an event like Eurovision 2017.

Conchita Wurst — The Right Girl At the Right Time for Europe

Conchita Wurst is now the queen of Europe, at least from the way things feel around Denmark tonight.  Over the course of one week at Eurovision, the Austrian representative grew in people’s eyes from being a freakish novelty, to being an artist to contend with, to finally becoming a phenomenon and a potent symbol of how 21st-Century Europe wants to see itself.

After being hushed and cowed into silence at the Sochi Olympics this year, Europe at least is done with standing idly by and letting Russia and its cohorts turn back the clock a few centuries on human rights and how nations behave toward each other.  And what better way to take sides in the cultural battle between the repression the East is becoming known for, and the progressive values of Western Europe, than by choosing the most OUT THERE symbol of all that Russia detests, a gay man who performs as a bearded drag queen.  And Conchita’s Bond-esque “Rise Like a Phoenix”, Europe’s new song of the year, is not so subtly a message of gay pride and power.

For Europe to overwhelmingly take Conchita Wurst to its heart and vote her to victory in such convincing numbers is saying to the oppressors of gay men and women in Russia that we in the West do not just tolerate our sexual and social minorities, but stand by them and claim them as our valued friends and neighbors.  Yay Europe!

conchita2Victory

Listen to the five entries for Eurosong, Ireland’s National Selection

Ireland has been one of the strongest countries in all ESC, but hasn’t recently matched their huge success of the 1990s, when they won the whole contest three years in a row.

Last year's Irish representative, Ryan Dolan

Last year’s Irish representative, Ryan Dolan (who just “came out” to the press yesterday, BTW)

This year they do have a pretty strong group of entries to choose from including one by young Eurovision superfan/composer Jonas Gladnikoff.  He collaborated on two former Irish entries that went on to Eurovision, including Black Daisy’s “Et Cetera” and Niamh Kavanagh’s strong ballad “It’s for You”. Here are the five for your listening pleasure:

Patricia Roe

Eoghan Quigg

Can-linn featuring Kasey Smith (This is Jonas’ song, considered to be the strongest of the five)

Andrew Mann

Laura O’Neill

I think teenybopper Eoghan Quigg and Can-Linn featuring Kasey Smith have the advantage, but good luck to all five and we’ll see who Ireland chooses.

National final will take place on February 28th and the audience can vote for their favorites. Scoring will include televoting and regional juries.

Keep my room ready for me København!! Denmark wins!!!

The best possible present for me on my last night in København just arrived! Emmelie deForest, “Only Teardrops” and Denmark have won the 58th annual Eurovision Song Contest in Malmø. If I start saving now, I hope to be right back in this same sweet guest house room at Carsten’s one year from now!!

As predicted, the organizers arranged the order of voting countries to keep the suspense up as long as possible. After the first several sets of points, Denmark was doing ok but not in the lead. Then the points began to accumulate, she took a lead and never again gave it up. Azerbaijan and Ukraine provided the only real suspense as they constantly swapped the second position, which Azerbaijan finally seized.

Congratulations, Denmark, and thank you!  Now I won’t have to stay away too long…

OGAE Voting Keeps Denmark at the Top

denmarkAs expected, the last few sets of votes did nothing to shake up the earlier trends in the OGAE fan club polls. Denmark took a commanding victory with 374 points, quite comparable with Loreen’s 375-point win last year. I am sure that Denmark and Emmelie hope that she follows in Loreen’s footsteps in going from OGAE fan favorite to victory in ESC this year. Here are the final vote total after all the OGAE club reported their points:

Rank SCORE COUNTRY
1. 374 Denmark
2. 282 San Marino
3. 269 Norway
4. 195 Germany
5. 177 Italy
6. 147 Netherlands
7. 119 Ukraine
8. 119 United Kingdom
9. 103 Sweden
10. 83 Russia
11. 61 Azerbaijan
12. 41 Iceland
13. 37 Georgia
14. 32 Israel
15. 30 Switzerland
16. 29 Ireland
17. 28 Finland
18. 23 Montenegro
19. 18 Moldova
20. 12 Belarus
20. 12 Malta
22. 11 Austria
23. 7 Bulgaria
23. 7 Hungary
23. 7 Macedonia
26. 6 Spain
27. 5 Armenia
27. 5 Croatia
27. 5 Serbia
30. 4 Belgium
30. 4 Estonia
30. 4 Greece
33. 3 Romania
34. 2 France
35. 1 Slovenia
36. 0 Albania
36. 0 Cyprus
36. 0 Latvia
36. 0 Lithuania

Listen to 1st New Single from Loreen

This week Loreen’s album began popping up around the internet, in advance of its official release October 24th. What HAS been released offically as of yesterday is Crying Out Your Name”, the 1st bew single from the ESC winner since “Euphoria”. Another dancefloor ballad in the style of her last three singles, it is destined for chart and club success.