ESC Countdown 5 Days: Bottom of the Heap

Cheat sheet for American viewers of ESC 2017

Some Eurovision entries are just bad in a WTF-sort-of-way. Some entries are great songs with the wrong singer, or vice versa. And some are just too anonymous to find a voting audience.  Pick a few from all these  possibilities, and you have the bottom of the fan lists and betting odds for 2017.  There’s a very good chance that the home viewers won’t see any of these entries more than once, since they will either fail to qualify out of their semis, or they are automatic qualifiers you will see only in the Grand Finals before they ignominiously drop like a stone in the final voting.

Valentina-and-Jimmie

Little San Marino’s disco mess with Valentina and Jimmie

This year we have two of the Big Five automatic qualifiers that are destined to fail. Spain is recent years has been alternately VERY good or very lame.  Unfortunately  Manel and his summer beach disco reggae falls in the latter category. He is young and attractive, but the song is so repetitive and filler-ish that it is hard to see this as anything but bottom three in the Saturday night scores.

Germany, despite a recent win in 2010, has more often presented poor-quality entries that scrape the bottom of the barrel in the last decade. This year “Perfect Life” is a nice-ish little song that is okay and inoffensive, but it is hard to see who (if anyone) will pick up the phone and be moved to vote for poor Levina.

Czech Republic has struggled since it joined the ranks of Eurovision nations, only last year qualifying for the Finals (and landing with a thud in last place there). This year they tried to recreate their formula from 2016 with an attractive, competent singer and a big ballad, but this time the magic just isn’t there. Without any history of neighboring countries voting to help them, the Czechs seem destined to fail in the semi and fail to qualify.

Lithuania did well last year, even cracking the top ten with handsome and athletic Donny Montell and a Swedish-composed entry. This year their home-grown alternative rock is sinking like a stone, and there is almost no scenario that sees them getting past the semi with “Rain of Revolution”.

And tiny San Marino is the little country that could–one time only in 2014, after several failed attempts at qualification. Returning for a 4th go-round is local jazz vocal star Valentina Monnetta and her favorite composer Ralph Siegel (creator of a dozen ESC entries in the last four decades). The song this year, with duet partner Jimmie Wilson, is a disco mishmash that has camp appeal. But that alone doesn’t seem enough to save this throwback from the lowest ranks of semi non-qualification.

Eurovision 2016 — Jazzy Girls and Pretty Boys

I realize this might be something of a “catch all” category, but there are a bunch of entries this year that don’t fit comfortably into the other posts I have put up or planned, so here is a motley group of swingy/retro girl singers, and pretty boys in groups or solo performing anthemic, pure pop or country-tinged entries.theme_eurovision_2016_small

Belgium is represented by 17-year old Laura who has a gutsy style reminiscent of classic Lulu or young Wiktoria from this year’s Melodifestivalen.

Belarus often sends somewhat “left-field” kooky entries, and this year Ivan has expressed his wish to perform on the big Eurovision stage naked and surrounded by live wolves. Since both of these options are a clear violation of Eurovision rules, we can look forward to some bizarre staging to make it appear in line with his vision.

Denmark seems to have a weak spot for goodlooking boybands, and this year Lighthouse X fulfills that Nordic need. “Soldiers of Love” is competent and catchy, but will it strike a chord with Eurovision voters?

Finland also follows its own heart when choosing entries (as last year’s Downs Syndrome punk band can attest to) and this year they have a big band retro girl singer in Sandhja who just wants to help us “Sing It Away”.

Ireland have mostly stumbled in recent years, after decades of being the powerhouse of ESC victories. This year Nicky Byrne of Westlife hopes to reverse that trend with lightweight pure pop and “Sunlight”.

Lithuania surprised fans in 2012 when Donny Montell took his unappreciated “Love is Blind” straight to the finals without any particular fan love. Goodlooking Donny is older, wiser, beefed-up and better-looking than ever this year, with his Swedish-penned anthem “I’ve Been Waiting for this Night”.

Netherlands have mostly upped their game in the last few years, and again for 2016 chose an authentic local pop star, this year Douwe Bob. This Everly Brothers-ish soft country pop goes down easy, but will it be memorable to tv viewers?

Spain chose Barei this year with jazzy singalong pop “Say Yay Yay”. The fans like it, but what about the Eurovision voters? Some reports say her staging is a little too close to the mood of Germany’s nul pointe entry from 2015.

Probably no winners among this group, though a few could strike a chord with the juries and voters in May.

Quality Songs Win on Super Saturday 2!

Iceland finished their song selection today with an EXCELLENT choice for Vienna, while Italy’s San Remo concluded its week of competition with a 4-hour marathon final that saw young opera-lite guys Il Volo triumph with what might be a winner candidate this May.

In Italy, Il Volo made a convincing case for Eurovision top contender (though opera-style songs are MOSTLY overrated as a votegetter in ESC).  Their record company is blocking their YouTube performance video from US viewers, so here is the official music video of “Grande Amore”.  Do you think Rome 2016 is in the cards?

Meanwhile, Iceland continues to impress Eurofans with the VERY high quality of the songs in its national finals.  The top two contenders in the “superfinal” came down to Maria Olafsdottir and Fridrik Dor, with young telegenic vocal powerhouse Maria taking the trophy and ticket to represent Iceland in Vienna with her “Unbroken”.  Many fans now rank Iceland and Italy as the top two entries so far this season.

Meanwhile, across the Baltic, Lithuania chose home-grown entry “This Time” over two internationally-produced songs.  Next week we will find out who will sing this very good entry for Lithuania in Vienna for ESC, but Vaidas seems to have the inside track with this happy, country folk-tinged entry.

Songs That Give Us Hope for ESC2015

So far the list of confirmed entries range from “meh” to “not bad”.  But from several of the highly-tipped songs in the national finals we are getting that winner-vibe that this year’s Eurovision needs. Some of the best songs seem to be clustered into the same qualifying finals to compete with each other, which simultaneously raises the chance that a good entry will win those contests and totally knocks some of these worthy entries out of contention.

First up, an unlikely powerhouse, Lithuania.  The Baltic state has had a decent qualifying record in recent years, but never with a top-notch song.  This year their final is down to three song possibilities and all are FINE. They have an interesting system where they choose a song from the top three possibilities, then choose which of their top three singers will perform it.  Male vocalist Vaidas has a lot of support, and all three of these songs could suit him.

Ireland has had some of their best results with songs by Swedish songwriters (Jedward, anyone?) and this year Nikki has an international team of songwriters, and Swedish Idol alumnus Erika Selin has a Swedish-style pop song with some Celtic sounds (and one of the best pop songs ANYWHERE this year). They seem to be the standouts in Ireland’s selection.

Estonia has a habit of offering up some really great options in their Eesti Laul competition and then failing to choose the best.  Let’s hope this year they go for Stig and Elina (whose “Goodbye to Yesterday” already has Eurovision bettors chomping at the bit).

Finally, Romania have just released their list of finalists. Former Eurovision artist Luminita Anghel is back again this year with the decent but not-totally-convincing “A Million Stars”.  But newcomer Lara Lee is really impressive with this radio-friendly Sia-soundalike.  I hope “Superman” leaps tall buildings at a single bound and wins this final…

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Semifinal One, Second Half

After the VERY competitive first half of 2013’s first semifinal, the second half may seem a bit motley and random. Balkan hiphop followed by Baltic poprock, a dance stomper followed by a soft ballad in Greek. It is all very Eurovision. As opposed to the ladies club of the first half, this second half is more equitable, four male and four female-fronted acts. And I think there are a few more songs that we can rule out.

First up, Montenegro’s popular hiphop act, WhoSee. “Igranka” has made a big splash in the Balkan region, and after a long string of women singing ballads, it is sure to stand out. This is not the type of song that usually does well with voters, but having a modern upbeat chart-topping entry after a slow period will definitely give “Igranka” the best position possible.

Lithuania will be very hard to tip this year. Andrius has sometimes been fine on stage, and sometimes pretty bad. “Something” sounds like something The Killers might have put on an album a few years ago, only with a thick Baltic accent. Even though he has lost the top hat and tails look from the national finals and switched to something more mainstream, I think he could have a tough time reaching voters.

Alyona from Belarus made a smart move in switching songs to her faux-ethnic party stomper “Solayoh”. As the only song of this style in the first semi, with a good performance she should have no trouble reaching the finals.

The OTHER Aliona, Aliona with an “I”, comes next, with Moldova’s “O Mie”. She also switched her entry up a bit, and swapped out her indecipherable English for the Moldovan version that she seems more comfortable with. Despite Moldova’s excellent qualification record, I think “O Mie” is not a standout in this lineup, and might vanish when the televoters decide who to call in for.

Ireland chose someone other than Jedward this year. Ryan Dolan is bringing some upbeat dance pop to semi one, and that’s another welcome change. He’s pretty strong, and could be considered a contender for qualification. But coming up two entries later is Belgium’s “Love Kills”, which has a better position near the end, and if Roberto’s vocals hold up on stage he could siphon votes away from Ireland.

Despina Olympiou from Cyprus is an experienced singer, and should perform well on the Eurovision stage. But her soft ballad, “An Me Thimase”, may fail to make any strong impression. I think she will have a tough time reaching the finals in this field.

As previously mentioned, Belgium’s French broadcaster RTBF chose “The Voice” winner Roberto Bellarosa in an internal selection, and the public voted for him to perform “Love Kills”. At first this seemed really weak, but after a makeover it is a really fine radio pop song. The question is whether he can sing it well enough on stage to sell the song to the Eurovision voting public. He could not have had a better draw in the running order, so he is now in the “maybe” category.

Ending the show is Serbia with Moje 3 singing “Ljubav Je Svuda”. These three talent show winning girls have the pimp slot with an upbeat song. Even though they are singing in Serbian, the fact that Croatia, Slovenia, and Montenegro are all voting in this semi should mark them as easy qualifiers.

So there we have the first semi. Reports from the rehearsals could change everyone’s appraisals, but as of right now I would predict the following qualifiers. In the certain category, I would put Denmark, Russia, Ukraine, and probably the Netherlands (although Anouk may suffer for being last up in that string of contenders). In the fairly certain category I would put Belarus and Serbia. In the strong possibilities category I would put Slovenia (after Hannah put on a great performance last night in Amsterdam). Now we have 7 ladies and no men qualifying, so I think that we should put Ireland and Belgium in as borderline possibilities, with Austria, Montenegro and Estonia. With those 12 as possibilities, I think that makes it tough for Croatia, Lithuania, Cyprus and Moldova. We will see how the stage presentation shakes things up in just four weeks!

December Recap: First Six Entries Chosen

The first month of Eurovison National Finals is complete, and six of the 39 nations competing in ESC 2013 have chosen their entries. I don’t hear a winner yet, but with some preparation and production work, I could see three or four of these in the Saturday finals.

So far, these are the entries (in alphabetical order):

Albania:
High drama in an Eastern/ethnic style.  Well-performed, but I’m still not convinced.

Belarus:
Pretty Alyona sings a competent dance-pop song.  With work this could go over with voters.

Belgium:
For a winner of Belgium’s version of THE VOICE, he seems a little tentative on the vocals, Interested to see if this gets better.

Lithuania:
Pleasant song and singer, but bad accent and a bit monotonous.

Switzerland:
Probably the most immediate and catchy of the entries chosen so far.  With a good staging this could go far.

Ukraine:
Very pretty singer with a great voice, but the strident backing vocals take it down a notch.  If they rework this for Eurovision it could be really good.

December will see six 2013 entries chosen

Now that ticket sales are beginning and almost every country has confirmed whether it will participate in Malmö, 2013 ESC is picking up steam.  In December six countries will finish their national finals and reveal their song for Eurovision 2013:

December 7th: Belarus National Finals
December 15th: Switzerland National Finals
December 16th: Belgium will announce its official song for entrant Roberto Bellarosa
December 20th: Lithuania National Finals
December 22nd: Albania National FinalsDecember
December 23rd: Ukraine National Finals