Semifinal One Results!

With one sad exception, all the songs I was quite certain of came through and made the finals.  I am told that the great performance of Greta for Iceland didn’t really come across on television, with her backdrop projections making the whole stage show look too dark on screen.  She didn’t proceed to the finals, with most of the fans and journalists agreeing that Iceland was far more worthy than a few of the countries that made it through.semi winners

From best to worst, here are the top ten qualifiers in the order I would rank them:

1.Armenia — looks and sounds great! Top contender on Saturday

2.Malta — excellent song, nicely performed

3. The Netherlands — cool, fun countryish pop with a comfortable, relaxed stage presence

4. Russia — the overwhelming odds-on favorite, though I find it artificial and cold.

5. Czech Republic –nice song, fantastic singer.  Glad they qualified for the first time!

6. Cyprus — best of the rock numbers this year.

7. Croatia — haunting melody and strange but cool visuals

8. Austria — sweet French pop, delivered with more confidence than I expected

9. Azerbaijan — fine radiopop teen-level song, with a less-than perfect singer

10. Hungary — ok song, good-looking but not charismatic singer

 (Click the photo below to see a full album of the semifinal’s photos on flickr.)

ESC2016 First Seminfinal

The Top Official Entries… So far

There have been 11 songs announced so far for ESC 2015, of which 9 are available in a more-or-less finished form for us to listen.  Of those 9 there are about 6 that are contenders for a decent placing in the finals.  Here they are, with the most recently chosen first:

Saturday Cyprus chose their entry, Giannis Karagiannis with the subtle indie love song “One Thing I Should Have Done”.  If Hungary placed well with Bye Alex‘s “Kedvesem” in 2013, this could fit into a similar niche and also get votes.

Also Switzerland chose their entry this weekend, and though “Time to Shine” is a hackneyed Eurovision cliche of a title, Mélanie René and her song both show promise.  It may need a makeover to “punch it up” between now and May.

Last week France announced its entry as “N’Oubliez Pas”, the song that Lisa Angell will perform in the Eurovision Finals (as a guaranteed Big Six finalist).  In a traditional French Chanson style, it should perform well if there is a decent staging:

Malta has emerged as a Eurovision finalist in the last few years, and though Amber‘s “Warrior” needs a bit of work still, by contest time it could comfortably fit into the finals.

Macedonia has had a rocky history in Eurovision, not always squeaking in to qualification.  This year they have a strong singer, and again, if their staging can make a decent impression, Daniel Kajmakoski and “Esenski Lisja” could make it to the Saturday night Grand Finals.

Albania has a habit of sending very talented singers that unfortunately don’t always find their audience when it comes down to the voting.  That could be the case again this year, depending upon the form that Elhaida Dani‘s powerful “Diell” comes to ESC in.  In a good translation this could be a qualifier.

One of the first announced singers this year was Trintje Oosterhuis, an experienced soul singer from the Netherlands.  Her song was presented shortly after, and here Trintje is in a live performance on the Dutch version of The Voice with her ESC entry “Walk Along”:

Next up, we should be hearing the Thomas G:Son-composed entry for Spain, “Amanecer” by Spanish pop superstar Edurne, and “Hope Never Dies”, the (possibly) strong duet from Czech Republic’s Marta Jandová & Václav Noid Bárta.  Since Czech Republic is back in ESC this year after a break (and three years of an abysmal record of no qualifications), let’s hope they have returned with something great…

Netherlands Again Chooses a Big Star for Vienna With Trintje Oosterhuis

Netherlands was one of the countries that frustrated Eurofans for years, since they (like the UK) have a thriving pop music industry at home but never seemed to be taking Eurovision seriously enough to convince a major local star to compete for them.  So they always were on the knife’s edge of qualification, and more often than not stayed in the semis.

Then superstar Anouk agreed to represent her home countries in 2013, and zoomed up into an easy top ten placing.  In 2014, it was easy to convince Ilse and Waylon, The Common Linnets to be the entry for Copenhagen, and so last year the Netherlands placed a strong second place.

For 2015, the 60th Jubilee of Eurovision, the Netherlands is showing no signs of fatigue or backing off their new winning strategy. Today AVROTROS, the local tv network, announced that Dutch superstar Trintje (known internationally by the phonetic spelling of her name as “Traincha”) will be their artist, singing a new composition written especially for ESC by Anouk.  This marks the third announcement in a week of a strong artist in the running for 2015.

trintje

Trintje is best known as a strong live performer of soul ballads and R&B, though a recent album collaboration with Anouk writing and producing has steered her into a rockier, more indie direction.  Here she is showing off her assurance and command of a live stage with one of Burt Bacharach’s more challenging 60s ballads, “A House is Not A Home”:

Now It’s Time to Start Catching UP

Sorry guys, my work schedule has taken over my whole life the last two months.  But now I feel like that is caught up for now.  So now it’s time for catching up on  Eurovision 2014, which will be coming up faster than we think.

I plan to blog at least once a day on the latest developments in the Contest and the National Finals that are taking shape.  For example, the 32 contestants chosen for Swedish Melodifestivalen, the 15 chosen for Belarus, the six chosen for Switzerland (yawn!), the 24 chosen for Latvia (kinda Yay!), and the contestants for Montenegro, San Marino and the Netherlands who are just awaiting their songs.

New logo for the 2014 contest (copyright EBU)

New logo for the 2014 contest (copyright EBU)

Meanwhile a beautiful Eurovision Island is rising from the mists of Refshaleøen on the København waterfront, with more exciting ESC 2014 developments coming up daily as far as the seating layout, theatre configuration, location of the Euroclub, and plans for the Eurovision mile along Strøget.  Stay tuned and let’s get back up to date!

Eurovision Semifinals 2013, Semi 1 First Half

Over the next four weeks I plan to introduce and give my humble opinion on all the entries for 2013. Since we don’t know the running order, I will base it on what we DO know, which is which semi and which half of that semi each entry will compete in. Up first we have semi one, the first half. Talk about starting off the competition with a bang–four of the entries in this group are in the betting odds to be in the top six of the FINALS! It’s a strong group, and the danger here is that some of these entries might cancel each other out by performing in such close succession.

First up, precontest favorite Denmark. If Emmelie and “Only Teardrops” doesn’t send a winner vibe tingle up your spine, you do have to acknowledge that musically, visually, and stage performance-wise, this ticks off all the boxes. It is vaguely, non-specifically ethnic in a sort of Scandi-Celtic mood. The staging features an attractive young singer, barefoot and somewhat performance-artist-ish, and live drummers and a pennywhistle. The lyrics of the song are about war and world peace, but not as obvious as, say, Russia’s. If Emmelie turns in a strong performance this is a good bet to win this semi and sail to the finals, where it should land in the top three.

Next, Former Yugo republic Croatia, which hasn’t done consistently well in recent years. This year’s entry is an example of the traditional Balkan form of music known as “klapa”. To me it sounds like a bit of Italian street song with a Slavic edge to it. It’s nice, pleasant, but a bit anonymous. “Mižerja”‘s big advantage this year is the fact that it is the only number in this half performed by male vocalists. If nothing else it will stand out for that reason. Also, Yugo neighbors Serbia, Montenegro and Slovenia are competing in this semi, so that should also provide a bit of a boost. Borderline, but I think it will qualify.

Ukraine is another of this year’s heavyweight entries. Zlata is a fantastic vocalist, and though “Gravity” is a bit of a strange song, without a real chorus, this is another surefire qualifier. Its most direct competition in this half of the semi are Austria, which it beats handily, and Russia, which is more of an equal draw.

One of this year’s biggest surprises is the rapid ascent of the Netherlands. When local star Anouk agreed to be the representative, the Dutch hoped to finally break out of semifinal jail where they have been stuck for a decade. When “Birds” was released for the public to listen, this entries odds rocketed up from the lower middle of the pack to a strong third place to win the whole contest. I think it might be a bit slow and downbeat to win, but should certainly match Patricia Kaas’ top ten finish from 2009 (comparing a similar, serious ballad). Moody and haunting, “Birds” stays with you. I am just not sure how it will sit with viewers who are seeing the entries for the first time.

Austria has been hit and miss since it re-entered Eurovision after a three year absence. Connecticut girl Natalia Kelly is a good singer, and “Shine” is a typical Eurovision song, but I think this might get lost in the shuffle of strong female performers of semi 1. Could advance to the finals, but I don’t have confidence in it.

Slovenia is also a hit and miss country. In theory they are part of the ex-Yugo bloc, but their culture seems more aligned to Central Europe than the Balkan peninsula, and their ex-Yugo neighbors rarely reward them with high points. Hannah Mancini is also an American expat, with a strong dance club stomper. “Straight Into Love” is a good song and fine singer, though I think it will need a good stage presentation to assure its path to the finals.

Poor Estonia has a simple song, nicely performed by Birgit Oigemeel. There is nothing wrong with it at all, yet I am afraid it will lack the impact it needs to make an impression among all these other female vocalist ballads.

Russia is another very strong entry. Dina sings beautifully, and the song is certainly immediate. If you have to listen to the well-meaning lyrics about putting down our guns and helping those who need us the most too often, it gets a little cloying. But Eurovision voters, especially in the semi, should respond to this and give Russia their usual oodles of points.

From this half, I think Denmark, Ukraine, the Netherlands and Russia have a lock on qualifying, with Croatia, Austria, Slovenia, and Estonia all on shakier ground. Eurovision week when we get to see the onstage rehearsals this should come into clearer focus!

Ladies and Gentlemen, We Have Our First Artist for 2013

It wasn’t a National Final selection show, and the song for Netherlands will not be announced until sometime in February, but we know one artist who will compete in Malmö in May.

TROS, the national broadcaster for the Netherlands in EBU, announced October 17th that after an internal selection, popular Dutch pop star Anouk had accepted their offer and will compete for the Netherlands in ESC 2013. Anouk is considered a superstar in her native country, and could mean that the Netherlands is really taking Eurovision seriously this year.