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.

Ruth Lorenzo About to BE Revealed as Spain’s ESC Choice

It’s a good thing I can read Spanish, since none of the sources on Google are in English for this one yet.  Popular UK X-Factor star Ruth Lorenzo (she came 5th in 2008) last week revealed to the media that she had turned down an offer by the BBC to compete for the UK in ESC 2014, and added cryptically that if she competed, it would be for her native Spain.

Ruth-Lorenzo-Spain-Eurovision

Fast forward to this afternoon, and all the Spanish media is blowing up with the news that TVE is about to reveal that, indeed, the singer (born in Murcia) will be the artist to perform for Spain in Copenhagen next May.

Here is a clip of Lorenzo from her X-Factor days.  With the right song, she could match the top ten placing Spain achieved in 2012 with powerhouse Pastora Soler.

The Automatic Qualifiers (Big Six)

Well, we can be sure of six of the entries in the Saturday ESC finals. The Big Six = France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK, plus last year’s winner Sweden. A few years ago, back when it was the Big 4, you could almost be guaranteed that none of them would take the contest seriously. But recently everyone has upped their game (more or less, and I am looking at you, UK) and at least deserved their place in the finals.

France has had a few years since they got a great result (Patricia Kaas, 2009). This year they are sending reality show star Amandne Bourgeois with “L’Enfer et Moi”. She seems to be a great live performer, and we think she should find herself somewhere in the middle between Kaas 8th place finish and 2012’s 22nd place for Anggun.

Germany has come back to life in Eurovision after winning the contest in 2010. This year they have turned to international dance music superstars Cascada, whose song is unfortunately a paint-by-numbers response to last year’s winning “Euphoria”. Even so, they stand a good chance at top ten.

Italy has come back to the contest with a bang, placing 2nd in 2011 and9th last year. 9th seems to be about right for Marco Mengoni this year, an excellent and charismatic singer, saddled with a song that won’t stand out enough to push him to the top.

Spain was absolutely GREAT last year, with the second song that year by Thomas G:son propelling them to a top ten finish. This year they apparently wanted to enter with something fully home-grown so they chose locally popular band ESDM. Unfortunately “Contigo Hasta El Final” is pleasant but anonymous, and will probably leave Spain back in the bottom five this year.

The United Kingdom don’t seem to want to do well in Eurovision, lately choosing acts that would have been fine in the contest decades ago, but well past their “sell by” dates in the 2010s. Last year Engelbert was far outside the sweet spot of what Eurovoters are looking for nowadays, and this year they have done a LITTLE better with sexagenarian Bonnie Tyler. Her gently countryfied “Believe In Me” won’t embarrass British fans, but won’t end up near the top.

Sweden has taken the “lagom” approach to this year’s entry. Robin Stjernberg is an excellent vocalist, and “You” is a good song that fits well in the modern pop scene. It will do moderately well, probably somewhere between 5th and 10th place, which is just where Sweden is aiming this year (they don’t want to be the host that hogs the party).

And there we have it, all 39 entries. By the weekend we will have a far better view of how they will all fare, once everything has been presented and rehearsed on the big stage at Hyllie. Far from being the boring, low-quality contest many were predicting, I think that 2013 will shape up to be one of the best Eurovisions in many ways.

Spain Has Three Song Choices for 2013

RTE Espana now has three candidates for its song for Malmö, all composed by Spain’s chosen artist, folk-rock band El Sueño De Morfeo.  Two were presented directly to the public, and the third, “Atrévete”, was presented as one of two options to the public and then won the deciding vote. Here is ” Atrévete”:

“Contigo Hasta El Final” was pre-chosen as one of the candidates:

“Dame Tu Voz” is the third candidate, and will be presented to Spain for the final selection show, scheduled to be held on 26 February at the Saint Cugat Studios in Barcelona:

Spain, as one of the Big Five, has no worries about competing in semifinals.  But I doubt that any of these possibilities will bring Spain back to the Top Ten for a second year in the ESC finals.

OGAE Second Chance Contest Chooses Pastora and Spain!

The annual OGAE Second Chance Contest is one of the major “off-season” events for Eurofans, where the Eurovision fanclubs choose a favorite from all the songs that WEREN’T chosen to represent their countries in the previous year’s ESC. This year’s selection was a tough one, but in the end “Tu Vida Es Tu Vida” by Pastora Soler brought the victory home to Spain by one point.  Danny Saucedo’s “Amazing” brought second place to Sweden, and “High On Love” by Reidun Saether earned a third place for Norway.

Rounding out the top five were Denmark and Austria.

Pastora Soler, Spain’s winner

Second for Danny and Sweden

Norway’s 3rd place (with a song by Sweden’s Thomas G:Son)

Denmark in 4th

5th to the bizarre Conchita Wurst for Austria

Big 6 qualifiers throw a curveball!

Now all the semifinalists have been through two rounds of rehearsals, and the picture becomes a little clearer. BUT!… Today ALSO marked the first rehearsal for the six automatic qualifiers: last year’s winner, Azerbaijan, and the Big 5, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. Most years the Big 5 (or 6) add only an asterisk or footnote to the predictions and prognostications the reporters and bloggers have so carefully amassed during the week. This year presents a big problem–all the Big 6 are good! Suddenly a blogger who has been carelessly tossing around accolades as to who will be automatically a top three or top five finisher in next week’s finals realizes that after today, there are ten or eleven in their “top five”.

First to rehearse today was GERMANY. The entries were meant to rehearse in the same order as their songs’ positions in the running order, but Engelbert Humperdinck would not be ready for the first rehearsal and so the UK switched with Germany for today. Germany’s young contest winner, Roman Lob, proved to be note-perfect, camera-ready, young and attractive. His Jamie Cullen-penned entry, “Standing Still”, is poised to move effortlessly into the world’s pop charts no matter what his placing in the contest. But there’s no reason to suspect that he won’t do well in Baku.

FRANCE has opted to internally select one of their nation’s top recording artists, Indonesian-born songstress Anggun, with a song she co-wrote “Echoes (You and I)”. Anggun’s stage presentation is a bit busy and not camera-ready yet, but there is no worry that she will not be up to the task of impressing viewers next Saturday.

ITALY is widely seen as one of the few true rivals to Sweden for the victory this year, and though Nina Zilli and “Out of Love” didn’t knock it out of the park today, there is no denying her catchy song and fresh appeal. Can she raise her game enough to take home the prize in 7 days?

This year’s host country, AZERBAIJAN has returned to their winning formula of the past three years of turning to the pop geniuses of Sweden to supply a ready-made top entry. “When the Music Dies” is written by a team headed by Swedish Idol’s top judge, Anders Bagge, and presented by the knockout beauty Sabina Babayeva. If the Azeris don’t repeat with another top five entry for the third consecutive year, they won’t be far away…

SPAIN has suffered with poor results the last several years, and responded by choosing a home-grown superstar in Pastora Soler, and a song penned by Thomas G:son, Tony Sánchez and Erik Bernholm, “Quedate Conmigo (Stay with Me)”. Today Pastora knocked the crowd dead with an amazingly strong, pitch perfect rendition of her soaring ballad that left no doubt that she will bring home Spain’s finest result in years.

This year the UK hinted that they were presenting a world-famous star of the music scene with their 2012 entry, but few were ready for 76-year old Engelbert Humperdinck and “Love Will Set you Free”. Will their gamble pay off? In the rehearsal today, the Hump started off in shaky vocal form, but built to a solid performance by the end of his allotted session. Will Engelbert join the Russian grannies as the senior contigent atop the scoreboard for 2012?

Tomorrow I will run down the second rehearsals of the semifinalists and whose ratings have risen, or taken a fall…