Esc Countdown 3 Days: Reaction to First Semi

Well, yesterday’s first semifinal shook things up, didn’t it? Three tiny things that seem to have had a major impact last night on everyone’s view of what might happen Saturday in the Finals. One, Italy’s Francesco Gabbani had a long clip from his upcoming final performance shown during the voting interval and he suddenly didn’t seem like a runaway winner anymore. The song seems a bit slight and superficial, and his performance a bit tossed off and casual.

Second, after a week when nobody saw Portugal’s Salvador Sobral rehears due to his ongoing health issues, finally he took to the stage last night and blew everyone else out of the water.  Sure he’s quirky and weird, but endearing, mesmerising and fully committed to his performance. I’ve heard from friends in Europe who say that they usually hate Eurovision but were completely caught up in the three minutes that Sobral took the stage. Portugal’s chance to win this took a HUGE step forward yesterday.

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Third, the running order draw for the finals is taking shape with the qualifying entries drawing lots for the first or second half of the show. Sweden, Greece and Belgium are to be in the coveted second half of the running order. Heavyweight contenders Italy, Portugal and Armenia are all crowded into the first half.  This shakes up expectations a bit.

Now let’s talk about Belgium.  “City Lights” is undoubtedly a potential worldwide hit and a very current and well-crafted downbeat pop song. But Blanche is definitely a carcrash when it comes to performing before an audience. Her unsteady vocals and deer-in-the-headlights onstage demeanor had most of us thinking she didn’t qualify into the top ten. But in their usual reality show trickery, the producers had her announced tenth, knowing the surprise and shock in the arena and home viewing audience when her entry was called out over such more impressive entries as Finland, Georgia and Iceland, even Slovenia. Here is a bit of her wobbly rehearsal performance (youtube is blocking US viewers from seeing Eurovision 2017 broadcast show streams and clips due to LOGO’s ownership of rights for the US).

Today, Belgium and “City Lights” are the top charting ESC song on Itunes in most countries, with Portugal second.  Maybe viewers like the song so much they will overlook a bad performance Saturday? I suspect that juries will fear rewarding a lackluster and inept stage performer and mark down her scores at the Friday Jury Final as a pre-emptive strike against her potentially winning.

Is it Anyone’s Race This Year?

Last night my LA friend and I attended the dress rehearsal of the Grand Final, and the high quality of the entries makes it hard to pick a winner. Russia, Australia, Ukraine, France, Sweden and Armenia are crowded at the top of the betting, and a credible case can be made for any one of them to win the contest.

Meanwhile, Eurovision is making news this year for this year’s surprise interval act, Justin Timberlake debuting his new Max Martin-composed single.  Although for arcane reasons this segment is the ONE part of the show that will be blocked out from the US telecast, American JT fans can watch him on the eurovision.tv internet streaming version of the show.  I am also sure that after the show his song will be burning up YouTube.

LOGO will air Eurovision Live in US!!

Amazing, stop the presses kind of news for Americans interested in Eurovision! For the first time ever, American fans can watch Eurovision Song Contest LIVE on television in the United States.  No European satellite or cable channels, no playing your internet feed through a smart TV, no gimmicks required beyond a cable or satellite TV subscription.

Viacom announced today that LOGO network will air the complete Eurovision Song Contest as it takes place in Europe, Saturday, May 14th at 3pm Eastern/noon Pacific.  Check to make sure that your tv provider airs the East Coast feed of logo with no three hour Pacific delay (in which case the show will air at 3pm Pacific also).  But just turn on your TV, tune in LOGO network and watch all the festivities and look for me in the front standing section by the stage (I usually find a place on the left side facing the stage).

Here’s the NY Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/02/arts/music/eurovision-grand-final-will-air-on-logo-in-us.html?_r=0

This is a delayed case of my manifesting an American broadcast. Years ago I started putting the thought out there to a LOGO producer at my gym that his network would be the perfect demographic to reach Eurovision fans in the US.  His response indicated that he didn’t take the Contest seriously, and he sort of laughed it off.  But somewhere along the line the idea sunk in and here we are.  Maybe it was President Obama mentioning ESC a few weeks ago as a unifying cultural event in Europe…

 

Watch and ENJOY!

The Final Lineup for Saturday is Clear

Thursday’s semifinal provided no great surprises, but added the rest of the favorites to Saturday’s Grand Final roster.  Sweden goes from strength to strength, and the talented and goodlooking Måns Zemerlöw, though he doesn’t require bravura vocals for “Heroes”, could certainly give a master class to Eurovision artists on broadcast skills, camera angles, and connecting with the audience.  I think he is most likely to be the hero of Eurovision this year and take home the crystal microphone trophy to Stockholm.  the other strong possibilities for the win are Italy and Australia, with Russia and Estonia being the outside favorites to take home the victory.

Here is the lineup in performance order for tomorrow night’s final.. In the US, watch the show streaming live via eurovision.tv or YouTube at 3pm EDT / noon PDT on Saturday afternoon.

The running order for the Grand Final

  1. Slovenia
  2. France
  3. Israel
  4. Estonia
  5. United Kingdom
  6. Armenia
  7. Lithuania
  8. Serbia
  9. Norway
  10. Sweden
  11. Cyprus
  12. Australia
  13. Belgium
  14. Austria
  15. Greece
  16. Montenegro
  17. Germany
  18. Poland
  19. Latvia
  20. Romania
  21. Spain
  22. Hungary
  23. Georgia
  24. Azerbaijan
  25. Russia
  26. Albania
  27. Italy

(The show runs about three hours or slightly more, with the performances taking up the first two hours, then the voting, interval acts, scores and victor’s reprise taking up the remainder.)

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ESC 2015 Countdown, My Places 20 through 11…

Eurovision fans can be a little dramatic. Every year as the national selection season runs its course, the fans are quick to declare it “the worst year ever” and this year was no exception. But looking at the 40 entries, I had a tough time squeezing the songs I really like onto one CD of 26 entries, let alone this top 20.

I can’t say there are any of the entries in this group of my 20th to 11th place songs that I don’t like.  And the only thing that separates them from my top ten, in most cases, is that my top ten are the ones that I think are more immediately lovable or more apt to impress on the big stage and on tv screens across the world. I do have to admit that some of these might be my own GUILTY pleasures that other fans absolutely HATE!

20th place – Moldova – I Want Your Love

Specifically, regarding my last comment, THIS entry is at the absolute bottom of many fans’ lists of this year’s entries.  Eduard Romanyuta is a rich, good-looking Ukrainian guy who seems to spend a lot of his time in New York and LA.  In other words, his winning the selection to represent Moldova seems a little weird and almost unfair.  But with all that said, it’s a catchy 90s boyband-ish tune that I won’t apologize for liking, even if I won’t be surprised if it fails to make the finals.

19th place – Malta – Warrior

One of the two female vocalists singing songs called “Warrior” in this year’s contest, I think Amber and Malta have the one that is more memorable.  I hope she qualifies to the final!

18th place – United Kingdom – Still in Love with You

The problem with this one is not that it isn’t catchy.  It is memorable, and sounds almost like a commercial jingle (specifically, a jingle for an English potato waffle that many fans immediately posted on youtube for comparisons).  It’s just very dated and cheesy.  It could strike a chord and do well, but I don’t think that with the Eurovision rule about no more than 6 on stage during the number, this can’t have the singers, band and dancers it would need to make a great stage show.

17th place – Serbia – Beauty Never Lies

Bojana has a great voice, and the song is undeniably immediate.  But it lost something in the translation from Serbian to English. I think it will qualify to the finals, but dont’ see it rising any higher than the middle of the board on Saturday night.

16th place – Lithuania – This Time

Out of the many duets this year, Lithuania have one of the most fun.  Monika and Vaidas are either GREAT singing actors, or they have a lot of real sexual chemistry adding to the impact of this entry.  I think the TV audience will respond to this and keep it in contention for the top half of the board.

15th place – Denmark – The Way You Are

Yes it’s a teenpop boyband number, and sounds like an updated version of “Hey, Hey We’re the Monkees”, but I think Anti-Social Media are cute and telegenic enough that young viewers will vote them into the finals.  I will be interested to see what kind of stage performance Denmark has up their sleeve…

14th place – Austria – I am Yours

Slightly higher-class than Denmark’s boyband, Austria’s The Makemakes are goodlooking and also have a slightly indie lovesong to bring to the table.  In recent years the host nations haven’t performed all that well in the finals, but I think viewers will respond well to this.

13th place – Greece – One Last Breath

Greece ALWAYS does well with the voters, and this year they have a very high-quality entry to back that record up with.  Maria is a powerful singer, and if Greece comes up with a staging to match the song, this could easily reach top ten.

12th place – Cyprus – One Thing I Should Have Done

Cyprus often has a tough time getting our of the semis, and this song is a sweet little indie ballad that might fall through the cracks, but I have to admit I am charmed by it. I hope it qualifies.

11th place – Iceland – Unbroken

This is a radio-friendly song that could chart in almost any country, and is sung by a pretty, charming 16-year-old.  I think it will easily qualify and could surprise a few people in the finals.

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My ESC2015 Top Ten So Far

It’s been less than a week since the final entries have been revealed, but time enough to make some quick favorites. Until the reports come in from the rehearsals in Vienna the first week in May, these are my favorites for top ten:

10th place – Russia – A Million Voices

In a perfect world, this would be in my top five, or even top three.  The group of songwriters who came up with Russia’s entry in 2013 are back and better than before.  Gabriel Alares, who placed highly in Swedish Idol 2013, is an excellent songwriter and he may be back as backing vocal again this year too.  But following the trends of the last three years, Russia is presenting a highly suspect plea for international peace and love.  Coming from any other country, it wouldn’t have the same air of hypocrisy, so this otherwise great entry JUST squeaks in to my personal top ten:

9th place – Belgium – The Rhythm Inside

Belgium are following the path of the Netherlands, and going from annual laughingstock to serious contender in Eurovision.  This song is presented by Belgium’s French-language broadcaster, who two years ago brought us Roberto Bellarossa and his his 2013 success. This year THE VOICE BELGIUM brings us another male vocalist, Loïc Nottet, who has a fine, modern pop hit in “The Rhythm Inside”.  It’s a grower, and could be top five come May.

8th place – Spain – Amanecer

Spain is another “laughingstock” that has rehabilitated their image with a couple of top placings in recent years.  This year follows the 2012 formula and gives us an entry featuring a strong female vocalist, this time Edurne, and an anthemic ballad by Swedish powerhouse Thomas G:Son.  “Amanecer” could be the them to an epic fantasy film, and doesn’t get played out on repeated  listening.

7th place – Azerbaijan – Hour of the Wolf

Elnur was part of the first Azeri entry in Eurovision, and hes back with a superb anthemic ballad.  This year no one will need to speculate that Azerbaijan might be buying its way to a top placement in the contest.

6th place – Slovenia – Here for You

Slovenia has had an up and down history in Eurovision, but has been on a recent upswing.  They could have their highest placing in years with Maraaya’s modern radio-friendly “Here for You”. Her entry reminds me a little of Germany’s 2010 winner, “Satellite”.

5th place – Norway – “Monster Like Me”

This is the year of male/female duets in Eurovision, with at least a half-dozen in the running.  One of the best is this touching and strange love song from Mørland and Debra Scarlett, which should easily reach the top five in May.

4th place – Australia – Tonight Again

This is the 60th Jubilee year, and Eurovision had a little trick up its sleeve.  Offering a final slot to faraway Australia was a publicity stunt that could end up with Australia coming tantalizingly close to winning ESC2015.  Guy Sebastian, the first Australian Idol, has a great voice and a fine entry in “Tonight Again”.

3rd place – Italy – Grande Amore

A week ago, this was so firmly at the top of the betting odds that I’m sure many Eurofans already started reserving hotel rooms in Rome for next May  But the announcements of the last batch of national entries shook things up quite a bit, and I now have them only in the top three, but probably not atop the winner’s podium in Vienna. Opera always promises more votes than it ends up delivering at the end (I believe).

2nd place – Estonia – Goodbye to Yesterday

Another modern hit, one that rocketed Estonia up in the betting odds before it was even selected, is this sly duet from Stig and Elina.  It has a cool country-tinged sound that fits well in current international pop charts, and a good stage performance should bring it close to the top in Vienna.

1st place – Sweden – Heroes

This felt like a winner from the start, and reports from the Heads of Delegations meeting this week to kick of the final phase of Eurovision found that a huge number of countries already view Sweden as top contender for the win this year. It’s current, clever without being cloying, and has a strong, secure singer with a great presence on camera.  It’s the one to beat in my book…

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