ESC Countdown 3 days: Who will Shine at Semi 1?

Tonight is the first actual broadcast of Eurovision week, as the 18 contenders in the first semi are whittled down to ten finalists via juries and televoters. About eight of the finalists are pretty sure bets with Sweden, Portugal, Armenia, Finland, Cyprus and Australia the closest thing to certain qualifiers. Add in  perennial votegetters Greece and Azerbaijan and the qualifying list is almost full.Kyiv2017

Let’s look at the top three contenders tonight. Armenia has a striking stage presentation and great vocals.  Her votes from the East could put her at the top tonight, though of course the actual scores and rankings from the semis aren’t made public till after Saturday’s final.

Portugal should end up with their best placing ever this year. Working for them is their touching, charming singer and performance, with his sympathy-getting story of Salvador’s heart condition that prevented his from attending last week’s rehearsals (with his sister, the song’s composer, standing in before his Sunday arrival).  The question marks are whether votes turn out for a fine song that is in Portuguese and sounds like it could be 50 years old.

Sweden has been consistently near the top of the final scoreboards for the last seven years, and this year should keep up that record. Robin is goodlooking and a fine singer with a great modern song and stage package. If juries and voters prefer something that screams international radio hit, he could walk away from tonight with the highest score.

We are only a few hours away from tonight’s Kyiv semifinal broadcast, and as always in Eurovision, there will be surprises and disappointments when the top ten are announced. But if any of these three powerhouse entries somehow fail to make the finals, it will be a stop-the-presses shocker.

ESC 2016 Entries – The Modern Songs

This spring, as usual, the fans started out complaining that the entries for 2016 would make this year’s contest in Stockholm the worst edition EVER.  Now that the 44 entries have had some reworkings and been performed around Europe in such events at Eurovision in Concert last month in Amsterdam and the annual London Eurovision Party, everyone is starting to realize that the range of offerings is actually pretty strong.  Personally I am looking forward to seeing and hearing all these entries on the big stage at Globen (with a few exceptions for bathroom breaks etc.). I’m breaking down this year’s notable entries into a few genres for purposes of comparison.theme_eurovision_2016_small

First up, the modern songs.  Last year, diehard fans were surprised to discover how many of the most popular entries with the voting public were the songs that would fit in perfectly to any current radio station’s playlist. So we can expect the best of these to fight for position at the top of the scoreboard May 14.

First up Austria.  Last year as host, Austria offered up a pleasant pop-rock entry that vanished without a trace, the Makemakes and “I’m Yours” which tied for last plaace in the finals with Germany, both not receiving a single point on the scoreboard.  This year, Austria is back with a light breezy pop song in French.  It is not anywhere near a winner, but is very pleasant and could qualify for the finals.

Azerbaijan had a big showpiece last year that was predicted to do very well but then barely qualified from the semis.  This year they have gone to their usual Swedish songwriters and come up with a catchy radio-friendly bit of almost teen-pop with “Miracle”.

Australia was the one-time invited guest last year that did so well (finishing fifth) that they were invited back again this year for an encore.  Dami Im is an Australian X-Factor winner with an appealing big voice and a current sounding midtempo ballad.

The Baltic states did well in 2015, all qualifying to the finals where Latvia and Estonia both achieved top ten status.  This year Estonia has a gravelly voiced male singer with a modern song that deserves to make the finals, Juri Pootsman and “Play”.

France has had a string of poorly received entries this decade, but that should change with their strong, country-flavored hit for this year, French/Israeli Amir with his “J’ai Cherche”.

Latvia also did extremely well in 2015, and their  artist Aminata came back this year as a songwriter.  The singer, Justs, has a rough,warm voice that suits their strong, radio-friendly entry, “Heartbeat”. If there is any justice this should sail into the top five this May.

Malta brought back former second-place Eurovision star Ira Losco, and then switched out her song to a stronger Swedish-composed entry that has them top five in the betting for 2016.  “Walk On Water” has Melodifestivalen veteran Molly Petterson Hammar listed as a co-writer, and you can hear her influence in the song’s bluesy soul flavor.

Norway did well three years ago with a cool, Bond-theme-esque entry with a sleek blond female singer. They are repeating that formula in 2016 with Agnete and “Icebreaker”, which probably won’t reach the top of the scoreboard but should qualify.

Host country Sweden decided to buck their own trend of dazzing, tech-heavy stage productions and instead go with a scaled-down indie singer/songwriter style number with 17-year old Frans and “If I Were Sorry”, which has buring up the Spotify charts since March.

Will we see a winner from this list of modern, current pop hits? Not necessarily, though I think we are sure to see several of them near the top of the board May 14th at the Finals.

Europe, Do We Have a Winner?

As the second-most successful country in Eurovision history (and rising quickly) every year Sweden’s entry is near the top with fans and bettors.  But with tonight’s LANDSLIDE victory at Melodifestivalen by Måns Zermerlöw and his radio-ready “Heroes” fans everywhere are considering that Sweden may have its second victory in four years. Stockholm 2016, anyone?

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Yes the song is fun and ear-worm catchy, the singer is good-looking and personable, but the clever and unique stage performance is what puts the whole package over the top.  Cute and charming without being cloying, it’s going to be memorable when it comes time to vote in Vienna. There are still five or six more songs to be revealed, but this will certainly be in the top five, if not straight to the top of the scoreboard.

Denmark Chooses Fine Entry, Misses An Even Better One?

Besides the massive Melodifestivalen finale this weekend, there were several other big events in the weekend mix.  Slovenia chose their first good song in ages, and Norway zeroed in on their six finalists before they choose next weekend. But the major event to watch was definitely Denmark’s “Dansk Melodi Grand Prix” from Odense.

Like Sweden, Denmark has an embarrassment of riches in their musical talent.  If Sweden and Denmark could each send three or four entries to Eurovision, that show would be much better and all their entries would end up near the top of the international race. Unfortunately, our “one song per nation” setup means that excellent songs get pushed aside so that one can win.  That’s why amazing songs like Ace Wilder’s “Busy Doin’ Nothin'”, Alcazar’s “Blame It On the Disco” and Helena Paparizou’s “Survivor” don’t get the Eurovision chance they deserve.

In Denmark, the contest chose wildcard entry Basim and his swingy “Cliche Love Song” to defend Eurovision on home turf in København:

Though Basim is catchy and the entry will be a fun party song for the host country, Denmark unfortunately had to disappoint fans who cheered for the amazing runnerup, Michael Rune (featuring Natascha Bessez) performing “Wanna Be Loved”.

A quirky earworm with an infectious saxophone hook and an international dancepop sound, “Wanna Be Loved” comes from the same songwriting team that brought you 2011’s fantastic “Lipstick” from Jedward. Though “Wanna Be Loved” fell just short in DMGP, we will definitely be hearing more of this song and its talented artists.

Four Entries to Watch for Sweden, and Four for Denmark

Today is a Scandi SuperSaturday, when Sweden and Denmark both choose their entry, and Norway has its second semi. In Swedish Melodifestivalen and Denmark’s Dansk Melodi Grand Prix there is a high level of quality, though of course every entry can’t win.

Bearing in mind that logic has little to do with the final voting, and surprises DO pop up, here are my choices for the entries to watch.

In Sweden, the headline match-up is the battle between traditional quality and new radio pop.  Sanna Nielsen is back for her 7th try for the MF crown and her biggest and best chance yet.

If anyone can challenge the status quo in Sweden, new sensation Ace Wilder and her chart-topping “Busy Doin’ Nothin'” seems the likeliest surprise winner.  She came out of nowhere in semi 3 and has been shooting up the charts like a rocket ever since.  She could easily win the televotes, and if the jury has been paying attention, they could also reward her with enough points to seriously challenge or knock off schlager royalty Sanna. 

If Sanna is schlager royalty in Sweden, Helena Paprizou is Eurovision royalty across the continent.  The jury could put her on top, and if the televoters put her in striking distance, she could at least take the bronze with “Survivor”.

And if there is a wild card, the pure party mood of Alcazar could surprise.  They have never won, but their 15-year career has spread past the borders of Sweden, so they too could get some jury love. Probably nowhere near a winner, but could end up in the top three or four.

Meanwhile, across the Øresund, Denmark is convening in Odense to choose the entry that will defend their win on home soil in May in København. The top three entries tonight will compete in a superfinal, and I think that the most likely to make that round are some combination of Nadia Malm, Rebekka Thornbech, Michael Rune, and Basim.  Check out all ten entries in this compilation

The Eight Entries for Today’s Andra Chansen in Sweden

Here are the eight entries that will compete for the final two places in next week’s Melodifestivalen grand finals. We have seen them during the last four weeks of semifinals, and overall this is a very strong group to choose from.

1. Ammotrack

2. Linus Svenning

3. JEM

4. State of Drama

5.Ellinore Holmer 

6. Martin Stenmarck

7. Helena Paparizou

8. Outrigger

Short of Ellinore making the finals, which I think is quite unlikely, I won’t be too unhappy with whatever entries Sweden chooses.  That said, they BETTER at least choose Helena for one of those places.